An Open Letter to My Former Church

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a history of staying in relationships long past their expiration date, even after those relationships became harmful to my own wellbeing. Sometimes I just wanted the comfort of the familiar, and felt too scared to make a change. Sometimes, I continued to give second, third or tenth chances to those who wronged me, because I always thought love included forgiveness. Other times, I chastised myself for not putting in enough work and vowed to try harder to fix what was broken, as though it was always a failing on my part. Usually, it was a combination of all of the above.

And that’s where I find myself with you, Former Church. Our relationship crumbled long before my ultimate tipping point. As I sit and reflect, I realize I should have left years ago. But, for too long, I convinced myself that things would get better. I convinced myself that I just needed to try harder. I convinced myself that it wasn’t you; it was me.

I was wrong. In truth, it wasn’t me, it was you.

I grew up in a very religious family. My parents and grandparents were all actively involved in the Catholic Church, to put it mildly. I was raised on Sunday Mass and Daily Mass and twice weekly Rosary. When my cousins, siblings, and I were little, we used to play church. For real. We read from the missal and said the prayers and ate bread and drank juice. Among my earliest memories was the desire to become a priest. And I suppose the realization that I wasn’t allowed to do so was the first chipping away of our relationship.

In high school, I began my feminist awakening. Imagine my shock when I learned just how deeply rooted misogyny is in the Catholic Church. Saint Augustine argued that only men, not women, were made in the image of God, thus relegating women to the role of “helpmate.” Saint Thomas of Aquinas stated (emphasis added):

“As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence.” (Summa Theologica)

At the same time that I was learning of the early Church’s disdain for myself and my fellow women, I stumbled upon an interview in (the now defunct) Sassy magazine that changed the trajectory of my life. It was a discussion with Laurie Cabot, Official Witch of Salem, and newly published author. Suddenly I became aware that there were religions that respected women and worshipped a Goddess. It was at this time that my inner conflict of faith became so strong that I left the Church, shortly after I was confirmed. I was jealous of the peace that faith seemed to bring the rest of my family, where I felt something was off or missing. I thought that perhaps I could find that peace through a different religion, and spent the next 10 years on that exploration.

I sometimes look back and wonder how that journey brought me back to Catholicism. Over those 10 years, I read and researched and attended services of various faiths. I examined and questioned every one of my beliefs, even the existence of God. And if I’m being completely honest, even that simple question resulted in a great deal of back and forth in my mind and heart. Wicca was the first religion to be ruled out–as much as I admired the centering of women and of nature, I couldn’t accept their disbelief in a force of pure evil. Even at 15 years old, I had already seen things that couldn’t be explained any other way.

I attribute my return to the Catholic Church in 2002 to two factors. First, I came across an essay that discussed how the Catholic Church’s embrace of Mary was proof that they were far more progressive than Protestants with regards to women. The second, and more impactful event was my uncle being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My grandmother had died of this same cancer the year before, six days before Easter. I received the news of my uncle’s diagnosis in the days before Holy Week began. After staying at my parents’ house the previous night, I accompanied them to church on Palm Sunday. The meditation hymn following Communion was “Were You There.” In those moments, all of my emotions came pouring out, and I quietly sobbed as I was kneeling. I remember my father asking if I was okay and my mother telling him that I was being filled with the Holy Spirit.

After a 10-year hiatus, returning to the Catholic Church was like putting on a favorite well-worn sweatshirt. Then I decided that I wanted to share my voice and join a choir. That’s how I ended up at St. Mary of the Snow. It felt welcoming and there were two choirs to choose from. I felt as though I had found my place in the world.

That isn’t to say that there weren’t issues from time to time. I already understood that being both a Catholic and a feminist was like walking the thinnest of tightropes. I tried to bite my tongue, but there were times silence was impossible. There was a day several years ago, as I was exiting the choir loft, when I was stopped by a parishioner asking me if I was going to add my name to a pro-life advertisement that would be run in the newspaper. I tried to vaguely say that I couldn’t do it. The parishioner persisted and asked if it was because I didn’t have the money for the required donation, saying that it was okay if I didn’t have it. That’s when I was cornered into admitting that while I don’t think abortion would be a suitable option for myself, I am a staunch supporter of a woman’s right to choose. Apparently, the fact that I was pro-choice, but not exclaiming, “Yay, abortion!!” befuddled her a bit, as she asked me how I could possibly be both pro-life and pro-choice. And that’s how I was cornered into telling a woman I barely knew about being raped. By the time I got to my car, I was shaking from the encounter.

But I did my best to shrug it off and learned to tune out each year when the Respect Life campaign was discussed.

Then there was the molestation (and subsequent cover-up) scandal. I could understand the concept of a few bad priests. I could even understand wanting to keep things as quiet as possible, lest those bad priests taint our views of the Church as a whole. But, that isn’t what happened. Instead, the Church engaged in a decades-long cover-up, including relocating offending priests to different parishes and gaslighting victims. If that wasn’t enough, earlier this year Pope Francis admitted that nuns were sexually abused by priests and bishops. If it wasn’t for the very grave and serious nature of these events, it would almost be laughable that a church so adamantly opposed to sex outside of marriage (and procreation) would be filled with a bunch of men who were engaged in exactly the behaviors they preached against.

But even that wasn’t enough to send me running. I told myself that as long as there was an effort to acknowledge the shortcomings and correct them moving forward, it was still okay to continue making myself at home in the Catholic Church.

There are two dates that stand out in my mind as permanently altering my relationship with the Catholic Church. The first date was November 8, 2016, when Donald Trump was named the next President of the United States. The Saturday before Election Day, I sat in the choir loft of a different church than my own and listened to the priest give a thinly-veiled pro-Trump homily. Then the unthinkable happened and he was put into office.

As this country’s human rights violations pile up, I wonder if the Church thinks the appointment of an anti-choice Supreme Court Justice is worth it. Do the lives of migrant children not matter? Exactly which lives is the Church referring to when discussing “the sanctity of life”? I just can’t picture the Jesus I learned about as a child being okay with any of this. I can’t wrap my mind around the concept of the same Jesus who said that what we do for the least of His people we do for Him remaining silent as politicians attempt to dismantle our social safety net and laugh at the idea of a living wage. I struggle to picture the Jesus who instructed us to love our neighbor as ourself ignoring the rise in hate crimes. I cannot picture the Jesus whose own parents fled with him to another country turning a blind eye to the barring of refugees and asylum-seekers here in this country.

The second date is July 28, 2019. That is the day when I realized that my relationship with the Catholic Church was no longer salvageable. When you heard of my intention to depart, did you also hear the reason? Did someone tell you that your homily that day caused my eyes to fill with tears of pain and anger? Did you hear the hitch in my voice as I attempted to announce the next song? Did you know that I broke down sobbing when I got to my car because I knew there was no going back?

As an Empath, this last decade has exhausted me. Since 2017, I can barely stand to read a newspaper or even open Facebook, because I feel as though I’m being constantly bombarded with images and stories of pain and suffering. Each story is worse than the last, and so many are beyond what I thought humans were capable of. From US cities without safe drinking water, to unarmed civilians being murdered by the very people we thought were there to protect us from harm, to neo-Nazis and Klansmen coming out of hiding and standing proudly amongst us, this world fills me with endless pain and despair.

Because of the tightrope I walked as a Catholic and feminist, your decidedly non-political homilies generally made it easier for me to remain in the Church. But sometimes events happen in the world and it becomes our obligation to speak up. As Eli Wiesel said:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

So as you began your homily and wanted to talk about the most depraved and horrible thing you had ever seen, I was thrilled that I might finally hear you speak to the many atrocities happening in our country. But you didn’t speak of hate crimes. You didn’t speak of children in cages. No, what had you riled up was watching protesters throw water at police officers. I wonder what it’s like to live in a world where that’s the most horrible thing you can imagine. I cannot even begin to imagine how wonderful it must be to not be brought to tears just from reading the news each day. I cannot fathom how peaceful it must be to live insulated from all of these other atrocities.

A number of people recommended the Episcopal Church as something that might more closely reflect my beliefs and my understanding of Jesus’ teaching. As I read everything I could possibly find online, I stumbled across the website of one of the local churches. Their website included a link to read/listen to the sermon from that Sunday’s Gospel. I cried tears of joy as the words to that sermon touched my heart. In stark comparison to ire over wet police officers, this sermon addressed what Ezekiel noted was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah:

“This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49)

The sermon focused on the way we treat the vulnerable and the oppressed. And its message was that, as Christians, our task is to follow Christ in his love for all of us.

As I said at the beginning, I have a habit of staying in unhealthy relationships. But what I failed to mention is that the silver lining to this is that when I finally do walk away, I walk away for good. I also walk away with no regrets. I walk away with a clear conscience because I know I gave everything I could. And unlike when I was a teenager, there will be no return, as the church I leave no longer bears any resemblance to the church Jesus spoke of in the Gospel.

Reconciling Trump With His Supporters

Last night, Hunter and I went out to dinner with my parents. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t let my father drag me into a political discussion, but it happened anyway. As we were leaving, I was inspired by an idea I wish I’d thought of much sooner. I asked him to look up John Pavlovitz and his blog. I don’t know if my father will actually do it. If he does, I don’t know if he’ll read it with the open heart that I hope he still has beneath years of Fox News-inspired anger and paranoia. But I realized last night that if anyone could break through, it would be John Pavlovitz.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was raised in a devout Catholic family. From Catholic school, to Mass every Sunday (plus weekday mornings if I was at my grandmother’s house), the first 15 years of my life were filled with the words Jesus. My father is a very religious man. He has a past that’s checkered with actions he regrets. I suspect he would tell you he sought and was granted forgiveness and he makes every effort to live his life according to the teachings of Jesus. I , on the other hand, experienced a significant crisis of faith at the election of Donald Trump, that continues to this day. From one moment to the next, I question my involvement with the Church and wonder if tomorrow will be the day I walk away for good.

The moment I heard myself suggesting John Pavlovitz’s blog to my father, I was suddenly able to connect the dots in my mind. I truly believe that my father is a good man, and tries to live a good Christian life. And I struggle to reconcile this with the man who sat with me last night at dinner defending Trump. I don’t believe that my father is the kind of man who would laugh and gives his agreement if Howard Stern referred to me, or either of my sisters, as “a piece of ass,” but defends exactly that kind of man. My father would never make fun of a disabled person, but supports a man who did. My father says he is not racist, but defends a man who referred to the white supremacists who marched in Virginia as “some very fine people.” My father does not support pedophilia, but casts his vote for a party that believes “better a pedophile than a Democrat.” My father tries to live in accordance with the Ten Commandments, one of which is “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” but extols the virtues of a man who lies even in the face provable facts; a man who labels any and all critique as “fake news.” My father tries to live as a Christian, but supports a political party whose platform is the antithesis of the New Testament. The man who always complained about my love of brand names and spoke of the unimportance of material things cited the growth of my mother’s 403(b) as a sign of Trump’s success. And I wonder, if even someone like my father has bought into this warped version of Christianity, what hope is there for the Church?

I recognize that the United States was not founded as a Christian nation (as explicitly stated in the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by 2nd President and Founding Father, John Adams). I believe firmly in what Thomas Jefferson articulated as “a wall of separation” between church and state. I also understand that we are a majority Christian nation (for now). And I understand that Christians are called to live Christianity by example, to demonstrate the teachings of the Church in all they do. And yet, the party that claims the mantle of supporters of Christianity and family values seek to implement into law so many policies that forget that the most important lesson Christ tried to teach us was love: love for our families and our friends, but also love for our neighbors, and even love for our enemies and those who would seek to harm us. He calls for us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and welcome the stranger. I’ve read the Republican Platform, and cannot find anything in it that supports these principles, despite so many claiming that they follow God’s call.

Even as I continue to question my own beliefs, I still try to live a live in accordance with the call to love one another. Not because I have anticipation of heaven or fear of hell, but because I believe it’s just the right thing to do. I believe that love and empathy for others is the single most important legacy that I could leave behind. And I admit that it’s a struggle. It’s a struggle to watch segments such as this one from Jimmy Kimmel and not hate people who could be so cruel to others. It’s a struggle to read comments from Conservatives and not hate them for their greed. It’s a struggle to listen to witness so many so-called Christians seem to embrace an attitude of, “I’ve got mine so who cares about the rest of you,” without wishing for Karma to knock them down a few pegs. It’s a struggle to see so many that I love encouraged to channel their uncertainties and discontent into and us vs. them mentality and not want to see them, also, as “others.”

And so I continue with my struggle to reconcile Trump with his supporters, to see the humanity behind the support of inhumanity. To remind myself that a movement based on greed, anger, and fear, cannot be broken down by more of the same. To quote Corinthians (NIV) And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) Surely, the path to breaking down the walls of hate is to love that much harder.

When Your Brain Just Works Differently 

My name is Corrina, and I have ADHD. 

Writing these words actually fills me with a lot of emotion. On the one hand, there’s a certain trepidation in acknowledging that you’re different. On the other hand, there’s a level of relief in knowing that what plagues you has a name, and you are not alone. 

There have been a plethora of articles on ADHD in recent years, with many of them hypothesizing that the diagnosis is given too frequently, that meds are being forced on children just for acting like regular children. In this same time, there has been increased attention on ADHD in women, as more and more of us are being diagnosed later in life. Much of this is because ADHD tends to present differently in girls than it does in boys. While boys often show the hyperactivity that society typically associate with ADHD, most girls show inattentive-type ADHD. 

Looking back on my life, it’s pretty safe to say that I’ve had ADHD since I was a child. At no time was it more obvious than 5th grade. I was an honors student. I’ve always loved to read, and my recall for things I’ve read has always been pretty decent. But homework was the bane of my existence. I procrastinated and got sidetracked, and it just didn’t get done. My teacher recommended an assignment book. I still couldn’t do it (the assignment book just ended up being one more thing forgotten). My parents even tried bribing me with a new TV for my bedroom, but it was all to no avail. I was kept off of the Honor Roll for the entire year because I couldn’t get my homework done. I’d love to say that I grew out of it, but I didn’t. I remember being incredibly grateful as I got older and more and more of my teachers placed less emphasis on homework. 

When I first approached my neurologist about it, I explained how I felt using the old school brick breaker video game as an analogy (yes, I’m absolutely dating myself). Most of the time, you were focusing on one ball, trying to co from and angle it to break the bricks on the screen, and that’s not so bad. But every so often, the game would release an extra 5 or 6 balls. Suddenly, it wasn’t so easy to keep track or the control what was happening. That’s how my brain feels most of the time- like there are a million things bouncing around and I’m struggling to grab on to just one long enough to figure out how to handle it. I’ve heard more eloquent analogies and descriptions, but this is the one I continue to go back to, because this is how I was first able to articulate it. 

Like everyone, I have a handful of regrets in my life. A few choices here or there that I wish I could take back: maybe I should have listened to my physics teacher and pursued a degree in math or science, maybe I should have gone to law school like my parents wanted, maybe I should have learned to budget my money more wisely when I was much younger. Unfortunately, the common thread in all of these things is ADHD. 

I knew in high school that I wouldn’t be able to make it through a math or science degree because I would never have enough focus to do the work. I knew by my senior year of college that I would never get through law school because I would never be disciplined enough to do all the work. Looking back on my life, I wonder how many opportunities I passed on because I felt like a fraud and was sure that taking on something too challenging would only reveal to the world exactly how much of a fraud I was. 

I often wonder if any of these things would have turned out differently if I was diagnosed and treated as a child. I wonder if medication would have given me the focus I desperately needed to manage demanding coursework. I wonder if I might have started my adult life not constantly feeling unable to actually be an adult. While I don’t blame my parents, I have to admit that it frustrates me sometimes. My brother was diagnosed with ADHD shortly after my 5th grade homework fiasco. Why didn’t they put two and two together? Why did it take another 25 years for my neurologist and I to figure it out? 

The idea of needing medication makes me cringe, and it’s something that I’ve tried to avoid. I’m not going to lie- it works for me. It gives me the ability to function like a normal human being. At the same time, medication has side effects, and I happen to also have a condition that can be exacerbated by ADHD medications. It’s a fine balance, and I hate feeling like a walking experiment in the quest to find that balance. For this reason, I went several years without taking anything. I wanted to see if I could function enough to get by. The short answer is that I can’t.

Learning to live with ADHD has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. It required developing coping mechanisms and way to compensate for what my brain couldn’t do on it’s own. It’s also required the ability to admit when I need help, which isn’t easy. But it also taught me the importance of speaking up when something doesn’t feel right (yes, even including my brain). 

Maybe I’m Just a Little Overly Ambitious 

One of the reasons my posts here are so sparse is because I often debate if this is the best forum for some of the things I want to write. Even though the tag line for this blog is “Random Thoughts on Reality,” I’ve found that not all random thoughts seem to fit in with the “atmosphere” I’ve created here. Some topics seem too frivolous; others seem too serious or too controversial. As luck would have it, I might have stumbled into a solution. 

They say that every cloud has a silver lining. Well, the silver linings seem to be pretty sparse surrounding the obnoxious and obtrusive black cloud that is the election of Donald Trump. But there have been a couple. Perhaps the most significant was having the opportunity to connect with so many other like-minded people from across the country and around the world. 

She the People

About a month and a half ago, one of my new friends approached me about writing a column for a website she’s launching. My education (B.A.  in Political Science/Women’s Studies) fit perfectly with an idea that she had. One of my dreams has always been to write, so I was flattered. On the other hand, um, hello- I’ve written less than a ten posts in the last year, so what makes me think I can commit to two a month?? The deciding factor for me was that I realized this site provides a way for me to voice some of my more serious thoughts. At the time this conversation took place, I had already attempted (several times) to create a post about feminism in general and intersectional feminism specifically. But the post just never quite felt like Sick and Twisted material. It felt too academic. And I’ll be honest, I’m a nerd, so I think nerdy academic thoughts. Only now, I have a place to channel them. 

***She the People launches on September 1st

Sick and Twisted- The Beauty Blog
My name is Corrina, and I am a beauty product junkie. Whether it’s makeup, skincare, or hair care, I enjoy a bit of pampering and I love trying new things. But even the world of curly hair and glitter eyeshadow isn’t safe from my inner nerd. I’ve spent far more time than I care to admit reading and learning everything I can about the science behind many of these things. I never anticipated anything coming of this, but then I had several people suggest that I do a beauty blog. I contemplated just adding a few posts here, but feel like discussing the difference between glycolic acid and salicylic acid just didn’t seem like a good fit. At the same time, I’m still unsure exactly how much I can actually write about skin and hair care when I’m actually pretty settled in my own routine. Not to mention,  would anyone even read it? There’s no shortage of people blogging and vlogging about this stuff. And I’ve read the posts and seen the videos on YouTube- many beauty enthusiasts seems to have a similar personality (or, at the very least, persona). My own cynical and sarcastic variant of bitch is definitely not it. So I finally decided to do a spinoff of sorts, which is how the beauty blog began. 

So there you have it. Like Goldilocks and the three bears, hopefully most people will find one of these sites just right. To recap:

  • She the People: more serious and potentially controversial topics, with a slightly academic twist (launching 9/1)
  • Tales From Sick and Twisted: a mix of almost anything that strikes my fancy, minus the hair and skin stuff (and with minimal academia)
  • Sick and Twisted- The Beauty Blog: skincare and hair goo, a mix of opinions and reviews (with a hint of research)

Something a Little Radical

I did something last night that I’ve never done in my almost 10 years on Facebook (or in my years on MySpace before that). Here’s a hint:

Here’s another hint: it’s not about what you see as much as it’s about what you don’t see. 

In the grand scheme of things, particularly in a post-Trump world, makeup is a pretty trivial thing. I get that. But in its own way, makeup can be political.

I started wearing makeup in public in 6th grade. Every morning I got up extra early so I could do my hair and apply makeup before school. As an adult, I often go makeup-free, but never for events and ABSOLUTELY NEVER for pictures. 

And I know I’m not the only one. There was actually a thread in a hair group I belong to on Facebook discussing how almost all of us ended up posting apologies or disclaimers whenever we weren’t wearing makeup in a hair pic. As if our actual bare faces were somehow not good enough or offensive. 

Makeup is often a double-edged sword for women. Wear too much and you’re hiding behind a mask or you’re fake and superficial. Wear too little, and you’re messy or unfeminine or an angry man-hating feminist. 

In this respect, makeup (or a lack thereof) is just another side of dichotomy that women are so often forced into. The specific dichotomy shifts–girly vs. butch, good vs. bad, virgin vs. whore–but the idea that we must fall neatly into one category or the other remains the same. And as much as most of us fight it, the truth is that it’s really challenging to move past it. 

I like to consider my first ever entirely makeup-free profile picture to be a step in the right direction. And PS, it’s also filter-free. As much as I loved how I looked with some of the filters I tried, I thought it felt most appropriate that my first bare-faced profile picture was as honest as possible. 

 The Body Politic

I made two phone calls on the morning of November 9th. The first call was to my boyfriend. The second call was to my gynecologist’s office to make an appointment to discuss sterilization. 

Recently, I underwent a laparoscopic salpingectomy, the removal of both of my Fallopian tubes. Having children has officially been taken off the table for me. 

I was never the type of person who dreamed of having children. Back in high school, I explicitly said I didn’t want kids. Looking back now, I can say that the only time I wavered on this was when someone else insisted that I should. I could use the excuse of never meeting the right man, but I would be lying–not lying about meeting more than my fair share of losers, but lying about that being the reason I didn’t have kids. 

So in fairness, Donald Trump is not the sole reason I pursued sterilization. But his election was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It circled back to the world I see around me not being the type of world I could bring a child into in good conscience. It circled back to the day I had to explain to my nephew, only about 10 at the time, that douchebag isn’t an appropriate word for him to use, after he saw it on a bumper sticker on my conservative cousin’s car. It circled back to the idea that people like my own father had no qualms voting for a man who bragged about sexual assault (and explicitly tried to convince others to do the same). If even the so-called Christians think that Trump’s behavior on the campaign trail and since the election is worthy of their vote, then what does that say about us as a nation? And how am I supposed to explain that to an innocent child? 

And of course, that doesn’t even touch on the most important issue, and the ultimate reason that I called my gynecologist on November 9th: the environment. In 2008, John McCain believed that we needed to tackle climate change–it was even in the Republican platform. But in the years since, it has become a litmus test of sorts for Republicans to denounce climate change, regardless of scientific consensus or increasingly strange weather patterns that even an idiot can’t help but notice. Republican control of D.C. was a guarantee that even the minimal progress we’ve made would be undone. 

The fact is that I will be dead by the time the worst of the impact is felt. But there’s a good chance that a child or a grandchild of mine would still be alive and forced to deal with the consequences. Once again, how do you explain to an innocent child that all of the extreme weather, the heat waves, the floods, the resulting famines, were because voters wanted to make sure the oil companies were happy? Or that climate change became a partisan issue because of the unprecedented hatred of our 44th President? 

Someday, we will all have to account for the mess we’ve created. But my conscience is clean. 

Loving Yourself When You’re Fat

After the election, I found myself with an extra 3000 friends on Facebook. While I’ve never met any of them in person, our shared beliefs have brightened my newsfeed exponentially. And then every so often, I see a side of a new friend that makes me shudder (and ultimately remove that person from my friend list). Last night someone posted a picture of a couple on an airplane, showing that they were larger than their seats and a caption about how glad she is that she works out, with the implication that the couple seated in front of her obviously did not.

Most of us wouldn’t even consider a Facebook post that makes fun of other religions or ethnicities. We wouldn’t write a post to make fun of a blind person or a person in a wheelchair. But too many people don’t think twice about commenting on body size. Body-shaming, and fat-shaming in particular, is alive and well. Ironically, studies have shown that fat-shaming not only doesn’t help people lose weight, but often has the opposite effect, despite the fact that fat-shaming is often disguised as “health concerns.”

My body has seen both sides of the scale over the course of my life. Growing up, I was that girl who could eat anything and remain thin. A doctor I worked with once told me I actually looked too thin in the pictures I showed her from college. Back then, my body didn’t show the struggles I already had with food. My episodes of alternately binging and starving myself in 8th grade went unnoticed. My lack of control around food wasn’t manifested on the outside, so it was never a “problem.” 

My weight ballooned after I was raped in college. Over the course of the next year and a half, I gained 60 pounds. This marked the beginning of my new identity- “fat person.” The first time I dieted, I managed to lose about 40 pounds, and it took about 5 or 6 years for it to all creep back on my body (with an extra 10 pounds for good measure). My next attempt at weight loss resulted in 30 pounds dropped, but replaced within the year. And so it continued, each diet a little less successful, each rebound a little worse. But this was who I was now- I was “fat person” trying to lose weight. 

It’s hard to love a fat body in this day and age. There are very few escapes from your body. For a long time, karaoke was one of those escapes. When I started to sing, I was just the girl with the really good voice, not just “fat person.” There were even times when I felt proud of my body, not for how it looked, but for what it could do. I weighed well over 200 pounds when I earned my black belt. I knew I was physically in the best shape of my life, despite the scale. But that pride was short-lived, especially once martial arts got derailed due to multiple back surgeries. 

I’m lucky in the sense that my body distributes my extra weight fairly evenly. It helps to camouflage the “fat person.” I’ve become a master of camera angles and lighting, learning how to not actually show the parts of my body I don’t like. I wear my tops a little low cut, in the hopes of drawing attention to my ample cleavage rather than my ample hips. I cringe at having my picture taken by others, even my boyfriend, because I know that no one else will make the same effort to hide my body. More often than not, I hate looking in the mirror. I hate shopping for clothing. I hate being out in public, because I wonder if this is the day that some stranger will post a picture of me on Facebook to comment on my weight. 

I recently made the decision to stop dieting. My relationship with food has become unhealthy. My relationship with my body is broken. I’m at my heaviest weight ever, but I decided that maybe, just maybe, I need to learn to love myself again. I don’t ask that people find me attractive or beautiful. I simply ask to be left alone and allowed to make peace with my body. 

Little Earthquakes

I recently shared an article on Facebook where Justin Timberlake said that Tori Amos’ album, Little Earthquakes, changed his life. Sometimes I agree with this thought—other times I feel like it doesn’t go far enough. Little Earthquakes was to my life what Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was to second-wave feminists: it didn’t just change my life, it gave voice to a part of me that had previously been silent. It put into words all of my conflicted emotions and helped me feel like maybe I wasn’t as lost as I felt.
There have been times when I wished I could say that I discovered Little Earthquakes entirely on my own. But I have to confess that it was a bit of an accident. During my sophomore year of high school, I briefly dated a guy who offered to make me a mix tape (his music collection was vastly superior to my own and he was older and therefore much cooler than me). He asked if there were any songs I especially wanted on it, and I told him that I loved “Silent Lucidity” by Queensryche. Well, that was the one song that wasn’t on the tape, at least not entirely. Instead, the tape was filled with songs I’d never heard before. The first one of those songs to really catch my attention was one called “Silent All These Years.” And that was the moment that everything changed. 
I remember times when I cranked up the volume on my stereo and lay down on my bed with my eyes closed, allowing myself, no, willing myself to become fully immersed in the music and lyrics (at least until my father interrupted because he was having a hissy fit over the volume). I would ride on this roller coaster of emotions and just for a moment I could feel like it all made sense. I would choose my start and stop point based on where I wanted to be when I ended, sometimes starting at the beginning, but just as often starting in the middle and circling back around.

That was almost 25 years ago, but Little Earthquakes continues to speak to me and for me. I don’t think there was ever a consequential moment in my life that wasn’t set to a soundtrack of snippets of these songs.

“She’s been everybody else’s girl, maybe one day she’ll be her own.”

“All the world is all I am.”

“Give me life, give me pain, give me myself again.”

“Sometimes I hear my voice and it’s been here, silent all these years… I’ve been here, silent all these years.”

It’s the last quote that lives in me right now, as I still struggle to process my post-election thoughts. While having a blog has theoretically allowed me more freedom to expand on my thoughts than Facebook, I find that the new format does not really alleviate the biggest hurdle: my concern about hurting feelings. I still censor myself, sometimes intentionally, but it’s often an automatic reflex at this point.

What drives this need to polish my thoughts for public consumption? And, more importantly, how do I break the habit? After all, it’s not like polished and censored really prevented any sort of fallout. I spent a full day watching an argument ensue in the comments of the following post:

While I’ve shared plenty of other people’s words, I’ve been generally hesitant to add my own, but I think it’s time to change that.

For those of you who missed my post a few years ago, I am a rape survivor. What most people do not know is that I was also sexually assaulted when I was 16.

Let me be very clear- I’m not offended by the fact that Trump used the word “pussy.” I don’t care if he’s caught on tape using the work “fuck” or any other obscenity. What does offend me is the context in which the word was used. Make no mistakes, what this man was describing was sexual assault. Whether it’s walking up to a woman and kissing her (which he said that he did), or grabbing her by the pussy (based on transcript this was more of a hypothetical), this is unwanted contact of a sexual nature and it is a crime. And if this is truly what all locker room talk is like (which I already know is not the case), all that does is explain why we have this ridiculous ingrained rape culture where men like Donald Trump or Brock Turner believe that they have a God-given right to take what they want from a woman, regardless of her own wants.

Do you really still think that this is okay? Because I don’t.

I spent close to 30 minutes drafting those words, making sure that I didn’t attack anyone and that I presented something that should have been fairly non-controversial. And yet, not one, but two different pro-Trump acquaintances felt the need to defend his honor and throw in some jabs at Secretary Clinton while they were at it. Another post (that I shared from a friend) resulted in my cousin calling me a bitch and ultimately unfriending me.

Probably the biggest reason for my silence is the sometimes challenging relationship I have with my father. I love my father, but our views couldn’t be more different. As a result, my first thought isn’t “what am I really feeling,” but “what can I say that won’t hurt my father’s feelings if he reads it…” It’s easy to see how giving more weight to an opposing opinion than to your own is nothing but a call to silence.

I’ve been presented an opportunity to write an essay pertaining to my perspective before and after the election. It will be published in the spring. I’ve known for a couple weeks now, but my parents will only find out about it when they read this post. My father has dreamed for years about seeing my writing published, but I feel torn because I know that what I have to say will upset him. My words will be published and I my biggest concern is my father’s feelings, rather than my own.

I suppose this is an age-old problem, and I could go into a short dissertation about women’s voices in the patriarchy, but that’s not totally my point. My point is that I’ve become more and more aware of it and I’m making it a New Year’s resolution to stop it. My voice is just as worthy to be heard, my feelings just as valid, and the gloves are coming off.

The First Words are the Hardest

What do you say after almost a year? If my life were a novel, my last post would have been the end of not just a chapter, but a whole book. I can say this confidently because it’s exactly where I would end the novel in my head. In my mind, last September was the end of Tales from Sick and Twisted, the book I’ve been writing in my head since 2003. After all those years, I wasnt sure how the story would end, but I knew it when it happened. And in retrospect, that was the easy part. 

How do you know where the next story begins? 

I always imagined that a sequel to Tales from Sick and Twisted would have to be called Tales from the Realm of FUBAR, because it always seemed that my life was a near constant experiment in the ironic, outrageous, and unbelievable. But things have been strangely calm, even a bit bland. I tell myself that must be the reason I haven’t written in so long–who could possibly be interested in happy, boring and normal? But even as the thought crosses my mind, I know it’s a lie. 

This afternoon I went to see Florence Foster Jenkins. For anyone not familiar, the movie is based on a woman who lived in NYC back in the 1940s. She absolutely adored music and wanted to sing for people, so she booked Carnegie Hall, and performed in front of a sold out crowd. The sad truth was that she couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but she poured her heart and soul into that performance. And the audience responded. Not just with laughs, but with appreciation as well. 

The truth is, I didn’t start a blog to entertain people; I started writing because I have something to say. I often think back to the guy I met at karaoke a few years ago, who said that he sang not for anyone else’s enjoyment, but strictly for his own entertainment. That was always how I wanted to feel about my writing. But I realized that even though I still have so much to say, I can’t bring myself to put the words out there. 

In many ways, Florence Foster Jenkins is the very embodiment of my greatest fears, not just as a singer (which is its own blog post), but also as a writer. Every piece art carries a small piece of its creator’s soul, and it’s not easy to put those little pieces of your soul out there for everyone to see. 

I still don’t know how my next story begins, but I’ve decided I don’t want to wait anymore. I was talking to Hunter today about it. Tales from Sick and Twisted was the ultimate chick lit novel, my own real life version of Bridget Jones’ Diary. Now my life has gone from movie to sitcom–and not even an exciting sitcom like Bones–life these days is more along the lines of Seinfeld. But then again, Seinfeld did run for 9 seasons, so maybe there’s still some hope for Tales from Suburbia, even if it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it…


“And everything could change like that, and all these years go by so fast. But nothing lasts forever…” Halestorm, Here’s to Us

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but never really knew where to begin. It’s been a year since my best friend moved away, and to say that everything has changed in that time is the ultimate understatement. 

It’s a strange feeling when someone leaves your life after 10 years. For 10 years Dave was my best friend. For 10 years my life revolved around my commitment to the choir. Saying goodbye to all of it left me feeling a little lost–like a piece of my identity had disappeared, leaving a huge void. 

But little by little, the void was filled with a new identity. And I feel like life is better in every way. There have been growing pains along the way, but I have no doubt that I’m in a better place now than I was a year ago. 

Dave told me he loved me, even encouraged me to relocate to his new town.  And it was easy to get caught up in his promises. But as 2014 rolled into 2015, it became apparent that his promises were nothing but words, and I chose to start the new year with a clean slate. After four months of trying to recapture the past, I decided it was time to move towards my future. A few months later, I met Hunter. I’m still feeling pretty selfish with these memories, so I won’t divulge too much, but where Dave was all empty promises, Hunter walks the walk. Not to mention the times when he looks at me like no one has ever looked at me before. It’s all pretty incredible. 

Dave actively discouraged me from continuing with the choir. He had nothing but negative things to say about the new director, and a year ago I had no reason not to trust him. It was easy to walk away at first–I was waiting for a repeat lumbar discectomy and was in excruciating pain. I had no desire to drive to rehearsals or Mass. 

After my surgery, I began to attend a different church, and after I decided to move forward with my life one of the first things I did was to get involved with their music ministry. It wasn’t the same, but that’s okay. I’ve met new people, I’ve learned new music, and I was even introduced to a new voice instructor, which has given me the chance to further grow. 

Then in June I was contacted by a woman from the old choir. She asked me if I would visit them for Mass one weekend. When I showed up she dragged me up to the choir loft and I sang both Masses that day with the groups I had left. It wasn’t the same, but it wasn’t better or worse–it was just different. And even after I walked away, I felt welcomed back by both old and new faces. A year ago, I swore I would never go back, but there I was. I’m not going to lie, it’s still hard sometimes not to feel wary after all of the things Dave told me, but the more time I spend with the new group, the less I’m able to reconcile David’s words with my experience. 

So it is that one year later life has taken me to new places, while returning me to a few old places as well. It’s still strange sometimes to revisit pieces of my past life through the lens of the present. But I suppose that’s what growth is about. 

Right before Dave told me he might leave, I told him I was thinking about walking away. I was growing tired of the drama and his inability to get out of his own way. Apparently that was the right choice, even if it did take me some time to get there. 

“I am the fire. I am burning brighter, roaring like a storm, and I am the one I’ve been waiting for. Screaming like a siren, alive and burning brighter. I am the fire…” Halestorm, I am the Fire