Behind bars

So many of us feel trapped in a cage. We feel we are behind the bars of stigmas, society, traumas, limitations, disabilities, invisible illnesses. We live in these prisons unable to speak our truths and be who we are meant to be, unashamed and free. The scars and the pain seem too hard to share and even in our joy we cannot express ourselves in fear of judgment.

So I went out today to the park

with prison bars on my face. I thought if I could face the world with courage to just be me, scars, wheelchair, pain, suffering, AND excitement to be out taking photographs, covered in a cage, then perhaps others can too, minus the cage make up or hey wear it if you want! I didn’t hide that cage that I felt. I accepted it but I also pushed through it in front of everyone to see.
Do you know that not one person, and I passed about 10 people or more, said one thing except hello.
So here I am, out at the park, unafraid of what others will think, and just being me.
*a special thank you to Angelica the anghinga who posed in a selfie with me

Beauty and perfection

I’ve often wondered at what point in the evolving of human beings did perfection of the physical become the most important. I watch the lengths one will go to for what they think others will see is perfection. The lengths they will go to to feel as if they look better. I watch the struggle of human beings to be “perfect” and am going to write my thoughts on it here.

Does one get plastic surgery, trying to match how they feel on the inside?

Are they trying to mask how they feel on the inside by altering how they look on the outside?

Is the outside a disguise for an ugliness that is inside?

It would be simple to point our fingers at social media, television, advertisements of victoria’s secret models and say, “That’s the reason.” The bombardment of our senses of hashtags and photoshop and filters to make a “perfect” person. It becomes harder and harder to love ourselves when the focus of that love continues to be ONLY on the physical side.

I see the rise of surgeries that put one at risk for death just to have bigger breasts, smaller and straighter noses. Human beings even inject a toxin (botox: it actual has toxin in the name of the product), to erase the wrinkles around our eyes and mouths and foreheads. A person will now go under general anesthesia and months of recovery for elective procedures. It’s ironic to me because due to my muscle disease I am at a high risk of death (malignant hyperthermia) for a surgery so I go above and beyond to try and protect myself from any surgery potential. My bones are brittle due to osteoporosis. My biggest fear is breaking a bone, having to have surgery, and dying! Yet, bigger breasts and liposuction thighs are done on a daily basis.

Is it because in the years of our youth we feel was wasted on beauty without wisdom? Now that we are older we want the beauty and the wisdom to go hand in hand?

Is it that we finally know ourselves and want to look how we feel we should which is different than what we do?

Are we trying to hold on to what was?

What makes us, us?

It is none of the above.

Our physical bodies do not make us who we are.

Maybe for some they think it does. Perhaps some think their entire identity is their body, the job they got because of their body, their good looks that let them rise in their careers. Maybe for some people that have succeeded based on the perception of their beauty and that pushes that further into their identity. But an identity could not be further from our physical selves. The sooner a person learns this the better they will become and the more they will contribute to society’s shift to the realization:

Our self worth comes from our self love and how we unconditionally love others.

In 1996 I was on bedrest after I went into preterm labor. I watched a lot of TV, something we didn’t even have before I went into labor. We got TV to keep me entertained as I lay flat in bed for a month. 22 years later I still remember a talk show I watched. A man was a pilot and they showed his photo. He was, by all society standards, the perfect man. His plane crashed and he was severely burned and blinded. He comes on stage and the audience gasps at his appearance. He was severely scarred and had glass eyes. They then brought out his girlfriend who had been his nurse in recovery. The show focused solely on what he did look like prior to being burned and what he looked like now. In that focus was the fact that his girlfriend was overweight, obese they stated, and how they fell in love. It eluded to the fact that if he had not been scarred and blind he never would have chosen an obese woman. It eluded to the fact that by her weight she could have never been able to date him before he was burned. The gasping of the audience…imagine how it made that man feel after years in intensive care and countless surgeries, to then be exploited. Well, he was on the show. I don’t know why. They tried to make one point and all I heard was another.

That show has stuck with me for 22 years. The implications that when he was deemed perfect before he was burned, he never would have dated an overweight nurse and that she could have never won the heart of such a good looking man before he was burned appalled me. The whole thing horrified me. It made the assumption that his entire life and hers for that matter were a sum total of their physical selves. It didn’t matter what either of them felt in regards to morals, values, honesty, integrity, etc. it just mattered what they looked like.

Last night I watched a documentary After the Fire about burn survivors of a college dorm. It was an incredibly made documentary about the perseverance of these two young boys as they recovered from severe burns. These two boys now go to schools and educate others on their story. They volunteer at the burn unit to give others inspiration to still fight. It touched on some subjects of how they would kind of reintegrate into a society that stared at anyone who is different. And people did stare. It made me think of myself in just a small not very significant experience where others stare at me in my scooter. This documentary brought to the surface feelings I have had my entire life of how beauty is perceived to be and what true beauty actually is.

Some of what we perceive as beauty is learned, watched, taught by our parents, bullied into us by our peers, proven by those who move up the ladder in jobs. Some of what we perceive as beauty is a feeling within ourselves.

Those who are blind cannot judge based on appearance. Those who are burn victims would not want to be judged by their appearance. Yet we have so many human beings altering their appearances to feel perfect. And I still ask why. Self esteem? Self worth? Circumstances that have led to body dysmorphia such as abuse? And how do we teach others that self worth and beauty does not belong as a stamp of our physical bodies?

This post was just written to get one thinking. I think about these types of things all the time. I don’t remember a person by their size, the color of their eyes, or the wrinkles on their face. I don’t remember a person by their clothing or their hair style or their wheelchairs. Have you ever been in love and thought a person was beautiful and then when you fell out of love you thought they were ugly for the pain they may have caused? Have you ever thought that beauty as we perceive it is based on how a person makes us feel about ourselves?

I do not judge those who have altered their outer appearances to feel more beautiful.

I am more bringing attention to the idea of beauty residing on a person’s inner being and not their outer being. Their acts. Their intentions. Their capacity to love. Their unconditional loyalty. Being humble. In the world we live in today those aren’t attributes that are highlighted, but should be.

I find beauty in empathy, compassion, and random acts of kindness. I find those people authentically beautiful. It won’t matter to me if that person is 100 lbs or 400 lbs. It won’t matter to me if they are scarred by a fire. I’ve never “judged a book by it’s cover.” I guess it is just my hope that as we evolve as human beings, others will stop judging a person by their physical appearance or ability too.

As a hospice volunteer and chaplain for 8 years I sat with some of the most beautiful people I have ever met. Elderly individuals in nursing homes. They shared with me their true selves. I saw their true selves. I held their hands as they passed away and I can promise you that the clothes they wore and the size of their bodies DID NOT MATTER. It never should have. And I will leave it at that.

Gatorland waterski show team unexpectedly revisited

*photo taken by me of me with a piece of tape over my mouth word written “speak” about to be ripped off by me with make up tears running down my face.

Today I was searching for my blog online and I ran across the blog I wrote about Gatorland waterski show team. It was on google. It used to be the top of the page when searched but now their own facebook page is top of the google search. I looked at the page. On their cover page is my brother jumping the ski ramp. I knew right away. He has perfect form. I watched him jump that ramp a million times in the years we skied together. We skied in shows all over the United States. I learned how to ski when I was 4 years old. I had my last waterskiing job at Seaworld when I was 18 years old.

It was coincidental, although I don’t believe in coincidences, that my husband and I were out to dinner last night. The table next to us were discussing their trip to Costa Rica and I was immediately taken back to when I was 14 years old and the Gatorland ski team flew there to do a ski show. Then today I am looking at old familiar faces from 30 years ago.

Those faces knew I was being abused and let it happen. Upon learning the truth those faces did NOTHING. No lives changed. The world kept spinning as I was tossed off into oblivion.

My brother kept skiing with them.

A number of months ago he sold that house on that lake with the ski team. I went back to the house to say goodbye to that “world” in a blog titled “Journey back home.” I didn’t expect to see that lake ever again much less my brother who has not spoken to me for 3 years. Infact, I had come to terms with not even having a brother anymore.

I saw his face on the cover of that ski team’s facebook page and I was unable to breathe. I started shaking. I thought I was going to have a seizure. I kept saying outloud “ Please God say that is NOT my brother skiing with them again.” I even went in to ask my daughter, “ Is that Andy?” It was. It broke my heart. Seeing him skiing with them again after these 30 years, after selling the house, after my saying goodbye to the house and the memories (on my own), there he was.

I don’t know what upset me most. At first I thought it was related to him and the message I felt he was telling the world, the ski team, all of those that allowed me to be abused and stuck by the abuser, that I was not believed. Then, I thought, how can I be upset about someone that never stood by me anyway?

I truly could not breathe. I was having a panic attack. It was different than a PTSD episode. I was not used to this. I walked out of the house and just kept walking.

I walked farther than I have walked in 11 years. Nothing was in my mind. It was a blank slate. No flash backs. No memories. Nothing. Shock perhaps. As I walked back I saw the flower I had left in the road to take pictures earlier in the day and it was surreal, as if I had not even taken those pictures.

I sat in a chair in the garage where my husband repeatedly checked on me. I looked at my wheelchair and my motorized scooter being charged. I felt beaten and defeated and stupid for just mindlessly walking like that. My leg is not letting me forget how stupid it was as I type this.

I sat and pondered what I was so upset about. Seeing the faces of those who did not defend or protect me? That they get to keep skiing when I’ve just injured myself barely walking? That I fought so hard to be heard and protect any other girls from that team and felt like I had lost?

Then I flashed back to the picture of my brother and the gatorland ski team members now. There are all new members. Young kids, young teens. The child molester is still lurking around in the distance I am sure as those who were willing to sacrifice me for him are still there. But, instead of being panicked and worried for the girls there I began to wonder. Did I plant a seed? Do the other members and their parents know about what happened to me because I DID tell my story on my blog as well as painting it on the ski jump when I was 15 years old.

Watching my brother jump the ski jump that I painted when i was 15, “Billy Banks is a child molester. Protect your children,” would ofcourse be upsetting even 30 years later. I was being too hard on myself for not pinpointing why I was so upset. Any one of you could list 10 reasons even if you’ve never read this blog before.

Instead of being panicked and upset over why my brother has made the choices in his life, and the others on that team chose the way they did, I can hope. I can hope that maybe with the new team there will be the happiness my brother obviously felt so much that he could not leave it even with his sister was destroyed by members of it. I looked at his picture and he looked happy. Happy to be skiing with them still. All the young teens looked happy to be doing what I once loved so much.

I can only hope. Hope that those parents watch their girls. Hope that the happiness of performing and competition waterskiing does not come with the rape and molestation for any of them. I hope that all they get from being on that team is happiness. What more can I do?

I’ve spoken my truth. I can only hope for them.

*photo of me waterskiing (the angry face emoji is the home of the child molester)

Jeffrey Marsh’s lesson for me

When my daughter was 3 and then 7 and then 10 and a hundred times in between we have told her that we ACCEPT her. Her choices, her sexual orientation, her views, her political views, her spiritual views, would be accepted. We would listen. We would accept. I remember telling her at 7 years old that she could be whoever she wanted to be, and had the choice to love whoever she wanted. That was the day I explained to her that there were men who loved other men just like I loved her father. There were women who loved other women like her father loved me. I told her she could love who she wanted and be who she wanted. She informed me at 7 years old that she would choose to be with a man. We informed her if that ever changed we would be ok with that. The important point here is she knew she was accepted!!!!

Our family has always been open to discuss all issues from abortion to feminism to gun laws to ANYTHING. Our rule is no judgment. I slipped up once, because I am a strong proponent of breastfeeding by saying I don’t know how I would feel if someone I knew chose not to. She, being the brilliant one that she is said at a very young age that it would be a woman’s choice how to use her body and said what if she’d been abused and was uncomfortable with that. Yep, she is an awesome girl. And my temporarily closed mind on that subject opened right up to all possibilities of CHOICE.

I do not have concrete thinking. There is no cement in my brain. My brain is like a sponge seeking more enlightenment, more growth, more understanding of EVERYONE.

When my daughter was 8 I had a good friend that identified as transgender. She told me she was born a male but always identified as female. She wanted to be called she. She wanted to be known as transgender. We talked openly about her transition that was not a transition at all for her but for others, in front of my daughter. My friend always knew she was female even at age 3. Her family, society, every single person around her claimed her as a male. They disregarded her knowledge of herself that she was female. She lost everyone. I didn’t know at the time how that would feel. I was appalled. What the heck did it matter that my friend finally at 60 decided to tell the world what she knew her whole life, that she was female!

She passed away of cancer many years ago, before all of the bathroom issues came about. I never even thought ONCE about her being in the female bathroom with me and my daughter. She was a female.

My daughter has always been an advocate for gender equality as have I. My daughter, I must say, is more educated and has educated me on some terms that I did mis use. I am thrilled to be educated so that I can respect each person AS THEY ARE.

Tonight she had me watch hours of Jeffrey Marsh videos/Instagram/interviews. I mistakenly called Jeffrey Marsh “he” and she corrected me EVERY time and said “They mom. They identify as neither male or female so you say they.” My daughter is telling me that there is no pronoun in our language for someone who does not identify as male or female. “They are using a pronoun that is not male or female. There are no singular pronouns as an option. Do you understand now?” Yep, honey. I understand. I love that my 21 year old is correcting her 45 year old mom. She helped me with the understanding of: non-binary, gender-queer, gender-fluid. After watching some interviews with Jeffrey I started tearing up. In one of their interviews they said that their family who didn’t recognize who they are. He spoke about advice for parents in his book How To Be You to “listen.”

I have to tell you that listening to Jeffrey made me cry. How many of us just want to be listened to. How many of us just want to be RECOGNIZED. Seriously, can you just see me??!!!!

It made me think what DO people see? A rape victim? A woman with PTSD? A woman with a muscle disease? And what stigmas have they ASSIGNED to me based on this? Why do I have to be assigned because of my labels? Why can’t my labels be worn proudly with honor and no judgment attached?

I was thrilled to be diagnosed with PTSD. It explained all of everything I felt inside.

I was thrilled to be diagnosed with a muscle disease. Now I understand what is happening to my body.

I love how Jeffrey speaks about how they are not different.

Because why is not like you have to be different?

Our society defines normal in a way that makes most of us feel different. I’ve never felt “normal” but I’ve never felt different. I have felt special. Special in my capacity to love all creatures on this earth, to love humans that are kind, to have no condemnation for a choice. I recently wrote a poem/story about if my abuser was tied to a post what would I do. In the end of the story, I cut him down and walked away. I wish no harm on anyone.

People are in an uproar that Angelina Jolie’s child does not identify as male or female. People are in an uproar that on the Voice last night, a performer was and called himself a drag queen.

I watched it. It was a badass performance!!! I recognized the pure talent, the courage, the beautiful costumes, etc.

I cut my hair short and comments came pouring in, most positive. A few questionable saying that I could totally pull off lesbian now. As if to pull off lesbian I needed this hair cut. I honestly wish no one said a word. Who cares what my hair looks like!!!!!I cut my hair off to liberate myself from what society deemed beautiful for women and for what my family expected of me (x family). This hair cut feels like me! I love to spike it and mohawk it. I love to wear dark make up and red lipstick and all black clothes. I love to wear no make up and pjs around the block in my wheelchair. I love to just be me.

“That’s feminine”

“That’s masculine”

Says who?

Everyone who boycotted the voice for allowing a person to dress in drag and perform? Everyone who would not want my friend pee in the stall next to me in the woman’s bathroom because she happened to be born with a penis but was no more a man than I am? Not that I am saying a penis makes one a man or not. The opposite obviously.

I was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, anxiety disorder, Lyme disease, bone disease, seizures, and PTSD. Those labels help me to understand myself. There is no stigma for me to admit these parts of myself. They are just parts of myself. I look like a woman although depending on how I dress (I often wear my husband’s old clothes) and my mohawk hair, I will have some looks of wonder.

When I was 19 I kissed another 19 year old and I didn’t like it. I LOVED it! I never questioned what that made me, I never judged myself. I never kept it a secret. My daughter knows about it as well as my husband. I didn’t overanalyze why or what or anything. At the time I was with a very abusive male. Shortly after I met my husband, fell madly in love, and knew he was who I was to be with. He was the one for me. He accepted me. All of me. Every part. He knew that I did not fit a “mold” but was just my own me. He loved me for me. I had not felt that before. Unconditionally.

I realized though, tonight, I don’t think until watching Jeffrey’s videos did I ever hear anyone say that it was OK to be who I am. To basically have permission to just be me. He even stated in one of his videos that your purpose can be just being you!!! I don’t want to put that in quotes although it may should be but due to my memory issues (seizures ) I hate to really quote anything or misquote.

Jeffrey also spoke about being understood.

Do you know I have wanted to be understood my entire life and never really felt understood. I spoke at length with my husband tonight about the seventy of my depression due to the PTSD and seizures and deterioration of my body due to this muscle disease. How I long to be understood! I mean really, I have a lot on my plate here! I told him if I could just take away one rape, or a few molestations, or the muscle disease..one off my plate would help.

Then my daughter showed me these videos of one person saying they ACCEPT a person for who they are. I cried because I felt understood. I am not comparing. I am saying we ALL want to be accepted. I wanted to be LISTENED to after being molested. I wanted to be ok being however and whoever I wanted to be. I did not get that option. I chose to give my daughter the option of believing and BEING who she wanted to be. And let me tell you she is a badass daughter with strength like I’ve never seen.

In our family, and when I say family I mean my husband, daughter, and me, we love. We do not judge. Be Jewish. Be atheist. Be Christian. Be you. If that you is kind, compassionate, and accepting, then we embrace you.

If you want to be in an uproar about something, be in an uproar about how rape and sex trafficking exists! Be in an uproar that families persecute, punish, and banish their own children for not conforming to what they want. Like me, who finally spoke my truth and lost everyone. Everyone! Imagine had I been non-binary!!! Imagine had I been ANYTHING but what they wanted me to be. I lost my family like my friend who was transgender lost hers due to her transition and I lost mine due to my transition to truth. We both spoke our truth and lost everyone. But not everyone. Just those who perhaps were never there anyway! Those who would never have accepted anyway. We then saw the few that were true!

I am now me. I encourage you to be you, in love, and in acceptance. Be true to you. It took an individual on instagram to make me feel accepted for HOWEVER I want to be!!!!!! As I am grateful for that, I should have heard it a thousand times before. Like my daughter hears.

Let your children know they are heard, and they are ok just as they are.

Listening to people rage on twitter over a drag queen and knowing most of a town supported the man who molested me is a great indicator of what is important to so many. The priorities of society are not where they should be.

I know this blog post was all over the place. It was more of a stream of consciousness writing.

Honoring the woman my daughter has always been. Honoring those who advocate for truth and acceptance. Honoring those who choose to be present. Innocent are being persecuted. I was persecuted for being sexually abused and speaking about it. So many are persecuted unjustly. While rapists walk freely.

I will close by saying this: It took Jeffrey Marsh to tell me I was accepted for who I was for the first time in 45 years and they don’t even know me. Let’s change that for our children.

Poetry

*photograph of a rope swing with a sprinkler on it. The sun is shining through the water making a rainbow of colors on the rope

Children of every size

Nationality

Color

Children with two fathers

Children with two mothers

Children with a mother, a father, 

And a grandmother

Children of all faiths

Children

All the same

Their laughter

Only joy

As their hearts sing.

Only love 

Resides

On the Rainbow Swing.

I cried over a tree and I’m ok with that. 


12 years ago we bought land to build our house on. We took down the trees that were exactly where the driveway and house would be only. We replanted every tree we took down. We mostly replanted flowering trees.

One day, we stopped by to see how the progression of our house was going and we saw all of the trees across from us had been cut down. It was a forest, just like our acre. They cut down every tree but 3. I cried. It felt like they had murdered innocent lives. And that is just how I am.

I feel deeply. I am sensitive and I do not apologize for it. I am empathetic and I embrace it. It pains me when animals, humans, nature suffers. It always has. Since I was a little girl, I have always been this way.

On the back path between our neighborhood and the one behind us sat two maple trees. They were beautiful. I went under them countless times. They reached across the path and wrapped around each other.

One day the tree on the right was just gone. Why? It was healthy. It was near no one’s home. But it got chopped down and not even a stump remained to show it ever existed. But I remembered it. I still do. There was still a tree on the left though. It seemed unbalanced with just this one tree but after a number of years I got used to it. Some time ago, I obviously cannot recall when, someone tried to chop down THIS tree. I believe I wrote some poems about it but since my memory issues I have not been able to look back at the time this happened. But every day I drove my wheelchair past this tree and saw the lines from the chainsaw. It pained me. And yet I would look up to those green leaves and see that it was surviving. Someone tried to kill it, pondered killing it, attempted to kill it, and it survived. Those green leaves and long branches stood tall and vibrant. It gave me strength.

Today I went for a walk with my husband and I went around the corner and my heart dropped. Tears came to my eyes. All that was there was a stump.


Some of it’s leaves had blown down the path. Some were still a little green while others were already brown. My heart felt broken. I repeatedly said “NO!” My husband, being the optimist said, ” Maybe some green will grow back.” Ok my memory is not great so he said something close to that that was inspirational. But my heart was already crying. My inspirational tree had been killed.

I connected to the tree. It was as if it had withstood so much abuse and still tried until finally someone had to just take that final blow. I have felt this way. Like people have chopped away at me intentionally hurting me and I have kept standing, kept surviving, kept the brightness as alive as I can. But what do we do when someone finally just chops us down? Will the green grow back? Or will the stump be ground up.

Fortunately, we are not trees! We can fight back. We can say no. We can create boundaries of protection. We can survive even after horrific attacks on our body. We can withstand loss and crime and hate and bullying and rape and still not let life give the final blow. We can persevere.

The chopped down tree broke my heart because I am just sensitive that way. Always have been. Always will be. I am ok with who I am. I am proud of who I am. I cried over a tree. Imagine how my heart feels over human and animal suffering and death. Yeah. And yet, because of my ability to feel and my awareness of other’s suffering, I will fight for them. I will fight against those who try to “chop down”  a life by whatever tactic of attack they choose to use. I will fight for the innocent and the victims and I will stand with them. In my fragile heart there is fierce firey protection for those who need safety. I am not ashamed that I cried over a tree. I am not ashamed of any part of who I am. I actually love who I am as a human being. I wonder, as I sit here, are others proud of their character, their hearts and souls? Do others accept who they are at the core of their being and cherish themselves. I hope so. I see the beauty around me and the beauty in others. I hope they can see it in themselves. I hope they don’t, I hope you don’t allow the choppers of the world to change who you are. They don’t deserve it. You matter. Please believe that you do.

Giving yourself empathy.

I feel compassion and empathy for others. I always have. My heart genuinely feels joy and pain of others.  I can feel it within my self when someone is hurting or laughing. When someone or something is suffering it pains me. But I have never felt that for myself. Today, I felt empathy for me. I thought about the things I have been through and I felt sad for me, I felt sorry for me, I felt bad for me. I then felt empathy for me. I felt compassion for me. Recovering from abuse has been a conscious choice. It was not a “lets try therapy”. It was a “it’s time to DO THIS”. During this path to healing I have experience rage, anger, defeat, sadness, depression, anxiety, dispondency, and sorrow. I have felt those feelings towards myself. I have felt those feelings towards my abusers. I have felt those feelings towards those who did nothing in the presence of abuse. But I have never felt for myself. To do that I had to accept what had happened to me. I had to accept these things to be real and true and validate them to be able to give myself empathy. 

She gets empathy

She gets empathy

She gets empathy


She gets empathy

She gets empathy

She gets empathy


She gets empathy

She gets empathy

She gets empathy

She gets empathy

She gets empathy 

She gets empathy. 

I can accept that horrible things have been done to me and I have suffered. I have suffered tremendously. It is long past time that I love the wounded parts of me, that I give empathy and love to the wounded parts of me. That I acknowledge myself and what I have survived. Every part of me deserves love. I have a great ability to love others. It is time I apply that same love to myself. ​