“That’s rape Marci…” I’m silently sitting on the other line of the phone with one of my closest friends. I get ready to respond and then the weight of what he’s revealed to me hits me. Why did I almost try to explain this moment away as simply a misunderstanding? Why was I so uncomfortable with the weight of the reality? Instead of trying to brush things off, I say “You’re right. For some reason in my mind, because I wasn’t dead or brutally beaten, I told myself it was just a misunderstanding and moved on.”
We were discussing an intimate moment I had with someone I was dating at the time. In my mind, I had written off the moment as a misunderstanding, yet because it kept haunting me I decided to open up and discuss it with a friend I trusted. In this intimate sexual moment that I was reflecting on, I had asked my partner to stop because I was experiencing discomfort. His response surprised me. Instead of stopping, he told me to not be scared and that he was there with me, to keep breathing, and that I was ok. I asked again to stop, he proceeded to “encourage me.” And then it happened, the trauma response in my body that I’ve experienced in the past. My body’s threat mechanism started overriding my brain that was telling me everything was ok. I started hyperventilating and sobbing. And then, only then...he stopped. My friend was right, what had gone down several days before was absolutely unacceptable and caused me to pause and ask myself, how many more moments like this in my life had I written off as a simple misunderstanding?
This was the day that everything changed. The sea of frightening, confusing, and perplexing moments in my life with men that had created some deep wounds and led me to develop protective shielding could no longer hide in the shadow of my denial. My attempt to avoid the discomforting reality that I had experienced sexual assault multiple times in my life. From the moment in the internet cafe when the owner grabbed my hand and pulled me close trying to force me to kiss him. Or the time I met up with a regular study partner at his work to find the building empty, dark, and menacing intentions. Or the time I “wasn’t in the mood” with a partner and he shoved me hard across the room. Or the time that young boy who was several years older than me pulled me near the bushes and proceeded to hump my clothed body. Or the memory of a group of young boys that is cut into singular frames from a movie reel with no complete middle, and an ending with me sobbing on a barren floor. These moments and more remained secretly shoved into the corners of my being.
Are you uncomfortable reading this? You should be. The troubling reality I’ve discovered is that my story is not unique. This, as it turns out...is every woman’s story. And these stories are carried silently in the shadows of their being. Out of sight, out of mind. Embarrassed, ashamed, confused.
I was inspired this week by Kelly Oxford’s tweet to share her first sexual assaults and invite other women to share their own. The result has been millions of tweets that demonstrate just how commonplace “rape culture” is in our country and how many women are carrying frightening moments deep in the crevices of their being. How many women have brushed off small moments as misunderstandings, “normal” behavior or felt ashamed to share.
What does this have to do with spirituality and living with purpose? Everything.
Living a conscious life requires us to engage in uncomfortable discourse. The pursuit of lasting joy requires us to have the courage to dance in these uncomfortable arenas. And our courage asks us to take a stand for all that is good in moments of darkness.
These days my conversations with friends, family, and those close to me are more honest than ever before. When we keep our moments of discomfort, of terror, of trauma, of despair in the shadows of our being we cannot heal. For years, I was sure that I had healed, or even miraculously remained untouched by some pivotal moments in my life. But this was all a story to keep me going forward regardless of what had happened. I never wanted to be a victim. I told myself that if I spent time on what had happened I’d get stuck in victimland. If I shared these dark moments with those close to me, I’d forever identify with them. But the truth is my fear of victimhood meant these dark moments remained in my shadow secretly forming the subconscious backbone of my being more than I was willing to see. This drive to avoid victimhood meant that I never took time to acknowledge the weight of what happened and how it was shaping my present day reality.
When we are ready and brave enough to call our darkest skeletons out of our closet we expose them to Love. And in this exposure we learn to love ourselves beyond the shame, discomfort, and denial we carried for so long.
The day that people are brave enough to shine light on the dark moments they are ashamed to share, is the very day that healing begins.
My life changed when I started sharing my dark moments. First, I had to share it with myself. I had to acknowledge that it was present in the first place. I had to stop pretending it didn’t happen. That these moments still remained in the ethos of myself and played out in my psyche. I finally named them. I journaled about them. I gave myself permission to cry. To be angry. To...feel. And lastly, I found the bright spots in them. Because they made me the courageous person I am today. And they taught me how to respect and love myself like never before. Second, I shared them with others. I sought the support of healers, teachers, and a coach to bring the darkness into the light in a safe container. Then, I opened up to people close in my life. To show a side of my journey that has fundamentally shaped me to be the woman I am today. And now, I’m opening up to whoever is willing to read this post.
Sexual assault continues because so many of us remain quiet. Those who have experienced it, believe we are alone. Those who have witnessed it, remain unsure how to deal. Those who have committed it, view their actions as unproblematic.
I wouldn’t be able to share some of my own dark moments with you if I had not faced them myself. If I hadn’t learned to be ok with discomfort. To feel what I never wanted to feel. And most of all to see this discomfort as an opportunity to heal.
For this week’s Joy Tip Wednesday, I want to invite you to be uncomfortable.
Engage in a conversation that makes you uncomfortable. Maybe it’s this conversation about sexual assault or another topic. Keyword, discomfort. Not torture. If there is a topic that is hair trigger sensitive, that’s not the place to start. Baby steps are key. Gentleness is golden. Practice really listening amidst your discomfort. Many times people avoid discomfort by denying the conversation. Through brushing off someone’s experiences as “not as bad as you think.” Or questioning what really happened. Be a safe container and simply receive. Create the space for someone’s bravery to shine.
Maybe my sharing inspires you to face some discomfort of your own by sharing a dark moment in your shadows with someone you trust. It can be naming it for yourself in a journal reflection. Or sharing it in conversation with a trusted friend. In service of healing the part of your being that’s ready to release. Intention is key. In service of taking your power back from the past that sucks life from your present. Often times without us even consciously knowing it.
It’s not like writing this blog post was easy for me. My mind told me all the reasons why I shouldn’t write it. I almost deleted it multiple times. Wanted to ask friends about whether I should post it. But my Heart Knew I had no choice. I had no choice because I know the deafening silence is what keeps us all in the dark. And that the deafening silence is what stole my joy for so many years. And it’s stealing others as we speak.
Joy lies on the other side of discomfort because it asks us to walk past fear. It asks us to question what we know and to uncover what is True. It asks us to face the subconscious shadows we hide from and pretend are not there. When we are brave enough to shine light on the scariest, darkest, corners, we finally become...free.
“One doesn’t become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making darkness conscious.” ~ C.G. Jung
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