We are creators of Justice and Joy

justice joyA few weeks ago, while at church, I heard a new hymn “For Everyone Born”.  It’s about creating a place at the table for everyone, but the part of the lyrics that I connected with have a different meaning for me.  The chorus says, “we are creators of justice and joy.”  I’ve heard a lot said about the fact that we create our own joy, and I believe it.  In fact, I try to live it.  But I have not heard much said about the fact that we create our own justice.  In fact, this is usually frowned upon.

Justice, is typically left to the judges, the courts, the law.  Anything else is typically called vigilantism or “taking the law into our own hands.”  But that is because Justice is often thought of as punishing the perpetrator.

Justice is elusive for many survivors.  Most abuse never gets reported.  What does get reported can often not be prosecuted, or is not prosecuted.  My abuser has never faced me in any kind of court.  He was accused by another victim, but was not found guilty.  Today, he enjoys all the freedom of any citizen, and I believe he still abuses on a regular basis.  I tried reporting him twice, yet he was never “brought to justice.”

So, I had to make my own justice.

Which is why I write.  Not to punish him, but to save us.

I realized at some point, that justice was as much about setting the world more right as it was about punishing the guilty.  I realized that I had to set about creating my own justice.  If I can let go of some of the pain, guilt and humiliation I have felt, justice is served.  If I can reach one survivor and start or advance the healing process for him or her, justice is created.  Some survivors are able to prosecute their abusers, and getting those bastards off the street makes the world a safer place.  It is justice well served.  But, even those who successfully prosecute their offenders still need more.

We are creators of justice…and joy.

Can We Talk About Abuse?

doctor-02

Going to the doctor can be a terrifying experience for survivors. There is a very serious lack of control, uncertainty, and vulnerability which can make anyone anxious, but for a survivor of sexual abuse, it taps into many of the feelings a survivor has been made to feel. There can also be a struggle for a survivor because by going to a doctor, he or she is taking care of him or herself. The survivor may feel that is selfish; that they do not deserve care; or that they are burdening others with their concerns.

In general, I don’t like to go to the doctor either, but I can usually make myself go. I try to go to recommended yearly visits, getting my eyes examined, going to the dentist, etc., because I know it’s important even though I don’t want to do it. I go and get it done, and then it’s over for another year.

I have rarely had the occasion to go to the doctor with someone I care about and see the appointment from another perspective. This week, however, Jeff went to the chiropractor to try and get some relief from his migraines. The doctor he was very personable and friendly. He examined Jeff’s posture and asked him lots of questions. Then he had him stand up on the footing of a table that lowered him into a position of lying down. He was totally fine with what was going on.

Watching the procedure, however, I was not. It wasn’t so much that I was having a flashback, as I felt small; like a child. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple days and that’s the best way I can describe what I was feeling. I have never had a bad experience with a doctor, but it just made me ill at ease. The doctor didn’t say what he was going to do next, or what he was doing at all really. I’m sure it’s just something doctors do every day and don’t think about, but if I had been the one on the table, I would have liked some explanation.

I have noticed in doctors’ offices that the forms they give me when I go in either ask for no history of sexual experiences, or the information it is seeking is too in depth. I hope that doctors are given more training than I have experienced to be sensitive to survivors’ needs. I always want to say something, like “You didn’t ask me about this. It’s important. Can we talk about it?” Or “That is asking too much. Can I tell you part of it, and know that I can talk about it at another time?”

Doctor, are you willing to hear me? Or is this another situation where I’m supposed to keep quiet?

I’m working through how I felt in the doctor’s office this week, and chances are high I won’t go in there again with Jeff, but it is something I need to understand within myself so I can know what to do if I should ever need to go to a chiropractor or massage therapist.

This discussion does not begin to elaborate on factors such as doctors who have been abused or doctors who are abusers. That is also part of the dynamic in a physician’s office.

It’s a process and I’m working on it. I’m trying to figure out why I felt like I did and what I can do about it.

How do you advocate for yourself at the doctors’ office? Or what would you like to see happen if that has never been an option for you?

 

Let Hope In

Today is a day of remembering, a day of sadness, a day of hope. It is a day that encompasses many things and many feelings for so many.

As you go through the day, please know that whatever you are feeling is valid. Throughout the business of the day, take time, even five minutes to feel what you are feeling and sit with it for a minute. The feelings are part of who you are.

Today, I feel jangled. That’s the best word I can think of and even that doesn’t feel quite right. I don’t feel anxious, but I don’t feel relaxed. I just feel a little on edge. I’ve cried at commercials, at posts on Facebook, and thoughts in my own head. I’ve smiled at my husband, seeing some relatives on the news talking about eating more fennel, and at my cat, curled up next to me as I type.

I remember the words from Alan Jackson’s song. They strike me today and on so many other days. “Do you feel guilty ’cause you’re a survivor? In a crowded room do you feel alone?” If I stop long enough to look at my feelings, I have always felt slightly guilty that I’m a survivor, but now I feel more honored. I don’t have much room left to feel guilty because I have no reason to feel guilty. Surviving isn’t a bad thing.

What Jennifer and I do, trying to tell our stories and encouraging others to tell theirs as well, there is no guilt. What we hope to do, at the end of the day, is help one more person move through the pain. As you know, we write pretty specifically about being survivors of sexual abuse. That is the focus of our work, but on the wings of hope that surround that work, we hope that every person every where can learn to move through their pain. The pain of which I speak is primarily emotional, but can cause physical pain.

People have all kinds of emotional pain for which many have no name or understanding. Getting in touch with that pain is, well, painful. It’s scary. It’s hard. It sometimes requires crying so hard you can’t stop and needing a Kleenex so badly to wipe your nose, but not having one, so you improvise and use a sock. Or you just let it go.

It requires mourning and anger and acknowledgment of all the hard things you have known. It requires fear and change. It requires trust. But most of all, it requires that tricky, dangerous little thing called hope.

When asked why they never look out the window, prisoners sentenced to long terms in prison, have said they don’t look out the window because they don’t want to see anything that will give them hope. They don’t want to see a bird or a flower. They don’t want those stirrings of hope to infiltrate their cell, or their soul. Sometimes something different is too much to hope for.

But hope we must.

It may never happen that childhood sexual abuse is completely stopped in the world. War may never end. Domestic violence may never end. Bullying may never be stopped. But I know if I never hope for it to stop and others don’t hope for it to stop, our voices won’t be strong enough to shout against these things and they will go on unchecked. And we will be left feeling guilty and sad. And hopeless.

Having felt guilty, sad and hopeless, I know that is no way to live a life. You probably know it’s hard to live that way. And while it isn’t nearly that simple as just to be hopeful, I encourage you to find five minutes in your day to look for hope. Post one less sad story. Play one less oppressive or violent game. Say one less sarcastic thing. For five minutes, invite hope in.

It will be scary and painful and won’t always work out well, but start small. Hope may be all we have.

What are you going to do today to invite in hope?

 

Connecting To Your Roots

Roots

It seems like much too long since I have written a post. I have gotten lost in my DNA double helix. Well, maybe not the helix, but trying to find others who shared and share my genetics and who are part of my heritage.

I cannot say exactly what started this quest at this particular time. It could be that I saw ancestry.com was having a two week free trial period. I have been a woman obsessed with looking at the records and finding connections before the trial ends. I want to make sure I get everything I can out of my free trial, even though I know I’m already hooked and will subscribe when the trial is over.

Every person has a story and a place from which they come. Those stories are connected to others and their stories and the place from which they also come. It is the infinite connection we all have to each other as human beings.

Sometimes it is a tangled web inside a maze to figure out how one person is connected to me, or if they really are at all. I have found in my searching that things which seem to be like they should be concrete and firm often are not. It would seem that a person’s name and the year in which they were born should be pretty easy to follow. That seems to be far from the case. There is a relative of Jeff’s who was named Johanna. She was also called “Jennie” and “Anna.” Some records list a person’s date of birth as 1905. Some records list it as 1904. There seems to be a pattern of rounding up. For example, if a person’s birth date was July, 1904, the census taker would often round up to say 1904. Sometimes there is no apparent method for the dates written down. Other records are much more precise. For example, on my grandmother’s side of the family, especially with children, the record shows that they child was 4, then in parenthesis, (4/12), indicating that she or he was born in April of the year indicated.

It takes some concentration. My first series of serious mistakes was not paying very close attention. I also was not familiar with how to use the program. I found that I had some relatives added three or four times. Then I had to figure out how to delete the extras and not delete all the information attached to that person. I also realized that sometimes I had added the same person more than once under a different name, such as Anton and Anthony. I have to pay much closer attention.

Connected with each person is a story. While it is sometimes difficult to find actual records of a person’s life, it is more difficult to find the stories of their lives. Those weren’t necessarily written down. Sometimes the stories that have been passed on through the family are not always accurate.

I have always been told that one set of my grandparents’ parents were in an orphanage and that all the records were lost because the orphanage burned down. I have found one, just one record, of some of the children being in an orphanage. I found that by finding the parents first, which I did not expect to find. There were ten children in the family that I have found so far and many of them were older and out on their own when some of the children went into the orphanage. There is no record, at least not one I have found yet, as to why they went into the orphanage. Their mother, at least, was still alive.

Life is a process of telling stories, seeing them played out, learning from them, and integrating them into our own being. It is also a process of figuring out who we are and how we tell our own stories. My looking for my ancestors has become part of my story. The hunt isn’t always easy, but it is exciting and interesting. I think it adds to the richness of my own story. I may actually find out if my red hair entitles me to feel so connected to all things Irish, or Scot!

We all have a longing to belong to something beyond ourselves. From what you know about your families, what stories do you love to share? Are there stories that make you uncomfortable in the telling, or the hearing? What other stories would you like to know?