2020- 5 year goals

I’m trying to stop ‘pinning’ things that I do not use, so I am currently going through my pins and cleaning out things that are not used.

I am also trying to use the writing prompts that I’ve saved.

One is “86 lists for the planning obsessed” and the first of the lists is “5 year goals”

Here we go:

  • Have completed seeing every state on the east coast (this currently leaves me needing to see Maine and New Hampshire)
  • Finished grad school- starting over put me behind in my mind, but hopefully, this happens within the next year or year and a half
  • Have streamlined my cleaning routine- currently cleaning our house from top to bottom, at once, takes me 8+ hours
  • Have found what works for my new diagnosis
  • Have paid off our final student loans
  • Have made progress on negative self-talk, and allowing others’ negative talk about me to affect how I feel about myself
  • Have cut down my weekly screen time consistently – currently, we are in quarantine, but with audible, listening to a sermon a day, working out, scrolling social media, etc, I’m averaging over six hours a day and that is not cutting it
  • Have minimalized my social media presence
  • Be on the board of a nonprofit
  • Be at peace with the relationships in my life
  • Learn that a 60+ hour work week is a requirement from anyone in my life but me and slowing down will not make the world fall apart
  • Stop feeling the need to google my answers to things to make sure I am not missing anything, and just be confident in who I am and that I am damn intelligent – I really while writing this googled how to write five year goals to see if there was anything I was missing
  • Have found our church home
  • Meditate at least once a week
  • Be a better friend, like understand that people not texting back is not a statement that means they are done or do not love me, etc, but just be a normal human a little bit
  • AFSP Capitol Days, yearly
  • Be killin’ that funt life (love my nugs)
  • Start pursuing my nonprofit management certification
  • Have taken Caleb to Disney
  • Have gone to New Orleans, Dallas, and to the Price is Right (Logan Smith, Come on down!!!)

To love myself, I cannot hate the experiences that shaped me.

I have not been here in a while. I have written, but I have not posted those thoughts here. However, last week I finished a paper for graduate school. I was asked to think about how my gender or race shaped my life and experiences, and how those experiences shape my thinking. I wrote hard and clear about what hurts, my treatment, and experience as a survivor. I wrote about how life looked alone, with others, and how my experience differs as a woman than it would as a man. If it rubs you the wrong way, please consider that you may very well be someone I am talking about because you have not handled my story that I trusted you with, appropriately. 

There was a lot I left out that didn’t feel like it belonged there but I can briefly share here, including how I do not pursue people anymore because I am so tired of rejection and hurt. How my health continues to deteriorate. How I have lost people close to me since we got married in June and how much it hurts that the people we trusted to stand next to us on our big day, turning away from me for unknown reasons confirms to me that I can’t trust people because this is the way my mind works at this point in my life. How I have panic attacks that find me in the random and mundane because something takes me back to that place: in a TJ Maxx, my bachelorette weekend, in the car, etc. That my flashbacks have grown more vivid in the last year for some reason. Finally understanding my need for overachieving and it’s links to what I went through. Yet also constant feelings of being able to do nothing right- literally nothing, but understanding that constantly seeking validation is obnoxious to everyone around you. Anything about my depression and how close I have come to relapse in the last year. 

Anyway, here’s the paper:

To look back at my life and how race or gender have affected the events and my reactions to these events, my focus is drawn to events that center around being assaulted when I was in high school. November 2019, marked ten years since my assault, and I often find myself looking at events in hindsight and realizing that my assault and my gender have determined how I have been treated, as well as the ways I have acted as a survivor. I have watched for ten years how my assailant and others have exercised the power of my assault over me, whether purposefully or as a result of the socially-constructed rape-culture we live in. 

As a preface, I was assaulted when I was sixteen. I knew my assailant, I had dated him for over a year, although at the time of the incident we had been broken up for many months. It was an openly known fact that my family did not approve of him, so when continuing to see him, I did so without my family’s knowledge; as a newly-licensed driver, this became relatively easy. He assaulted me in a public space, I am petite so I did not have a lot of force to fight back. I did scream when I saw someone passing by, the woman looked in our direction, and kept walking. At that point, I went into “freeze” mode and tried to make myself mentally anywhere, but there. Later that week, I told one male friend, and then I did not speak about it until January 2012. I did hear that my assailant told people he took my virginity and there were some rumors and name-calling when I was not around. This is why to this day, I am really only friends with one person from high-school. The same people who had watched this boyfriend throw me against lockers for speaking to a male colleague during class and did nothing, willingly believed I had lost the most special part of myself to him, and this told me all I needed to know about any of them. I did not know at the time this was the beginning of the different reactions towards sexuality when it comes to men and women. That even though I had done nothing, because it was rumored I had, I was called a slew of names, while he was patted on the back for bedding a cheerleader and beauty queen. In January 2012, I was watching television with the boyfriend of the year, a rape scene played on screen, I told him, “I think I was raped.” Within a month, I had ‘come out’ to my family, friends, and church, and I was seeing a counselor. I also had encountered my first experiences with victim blame and rape culture, my personal favorite being one of my bible study friends saying “Wow, you must have sinned really bad for God to have punished you like that.”

My gender has been a defining factor in the reactions I received from the day it happened to today. I understood within a few years of speaking up, although I never reported it to the police, that survivors are very often blamed, and just as often, not believed. What drove home how many people in my life, and around the nation, did not have empathy for survivors was the testimony of Christine Blasely Ford. It was terribly phenomenal to scroll my social media and read people I trusted with my story discussing how Justice Kavanaugh was the true victim. The election of Donald Trump and the dismissive nature of our nation towards the slew of women who have accused him of sexual misconduct has opened a can of worms in my life that will never be closed. I have learned things about people I love, that I can never unknow. I can say with complete confidence that my assailant, as a male, has never been asked the things I have, like what I was wearing, if I did anything to imply I ‘wanted it,’ if I was sure I had not done it then regretted it, or if we had done it before and now I was just mad at him and trying to make everyone hate him. I have had jokes and comments made about assault in general, and about me specifically, to my face and on social media. All of it has defined who I have become with my family and friends “at home” because if I cannot trust them with the worst thing to ever happen to me, they do not deserve to be trusted with any of the good either. It also makes me very sad to be that cynical. 

My cynicism and my anxiety carry into school, both my workplace and my education. I have been asked to leave a class for a scathing review of one of my professor’s book on sexual assault in the twentieth century, and how he took part in rape culture by writing it. [Sentence removed here for legal reasons]. I had a hard time with the thought of returning to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s campus after the shooting last spring, because new trauma can cause one to feel other trauma-induced feelings. I can find myself in highs and lows in defense of the people like me who live with our specific type of pain daily. I do see how my gender and my experience have positively affected, as well. 

Being a woman, who is okay with feeling her feelings, I have let what happened to me help define the emotions I let myself feel. Without the hurt, I endured that day and every day since then, I would not have the empathy I do for others. I would not care as deeply as I do for my students and their needs. I would not be walking through life with other women who were assaulted in the last year and loving them and telling them it does get easier. I would not have the heart to decide to leave another school, and a master’s program that was almost finished to continue to pursue my heart for education and the kids I get to help raise through it.

My gender has positively affected my experience with sexual assault too because I do see other women who talk about their assault and their feelings. I have women like Christine Blasely Ford, Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Chanel Miller, and Lady Gaga to look to. One of my male friends was assaulted before we met, and he never felt like he could speak about it because socially it feels like it is even less acceptable to be a male who has been assaulted. It was hard for me to go through my feelings alone for over two years, I cannot imagine what he feels living through it daily, knowing he does not get to share the burden with others, in all the ways I am able to. For as many adverse reactions I have received, there are also people who are empathetic. There are people who think of me and send an email during the news coverage of Biden and Trump’s growing list of accusations to say they are sorry I lived through that and if I need them they are there, but he does not have that. My gender allows me to talk about it and feel my feelings, being a male who talked about his assault would gain him more negative commentary than my waiting and lack of legal action gained me.

Today, I reiterated my story for what seems to be the three-thousandth time, and I felt my emotions. I decided some time ago to follow Ernest Hemingway’s piece of advice, and to “write hard and clear about what hurts.” Being a woman for me means, I live with what he did, every day. The trauma resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as a chronic musculoskeletal disorder called fibromyalgia. Both make sure I am reminded, daily, even if I wanted to forget. My trauma means I live with the anxiety of having children and something similar happening to them. I also wait for the next person in my life to show me why they are not trustworthy. It also means I scream all the louder about the things that matter. It means there is a fire in my belly to pursue my dreams and pursue them fiercely to prove to anyone that I am more than what happened to me. [Sentence removed about perpetrator because of identifying information]. I would never be thankful for him or what he did to me, but I am grateful for being a woman who owns my story and loves myself despite the hard parts. Without my struggle, I would not be me. Without my pain, I would not love so fervently. To love myself, I cannot hate the experiences that shaped me. 

96712709_2537042799896098_1576000724137934848_n*references to textbook were removed.
but I did reference this book we’re using in the course
https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=hflWCgAAQBAJ

 

“Do Better”

TW: Suicide, depression

 

I don’t sleep well on this night.

Tonight I am sitting alone in my new living room, with my cats, with my spouse sleeping in the next room.

And it seems that with each passing second the clock ticking on the wall behind me gets louder.

When it strikes midnight, it will be October 1st.

On this night, seven years ago, I wonder how you spent your final night on this earth. I wonder what your thoughts were. If you had fully made the decision. If you had any caveats, any signs that would stop you. I wonder what texts you sent. I wonder what words would have kept you here.

I imagine you hugged your sweet mama’s neck extra tightly that night. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

None of the people who loved you in the course of your 19 years had any idea.

In less than 24 hours, I would be sitting in a new member education meeting when I received the phone call. A friend who doesn’t call anymore. But the only person I would’ve wanted to share the news with me.

I hugged a wall. I hugged my sisters. I screamed, a lot that night.

The monster that has seemingly has no end. The one that reaps without care of age, gender, race, religion, had come into my circle, our circle.

As much as I wish that night could be taken back. I wish we could rewind. Someone could have stopped you. Hugged you tighter, said what you needed to hear, sat with you all night, done whatever you needed, it’s been done for seven years. Our bodies have completely regenerated since that night. We are completely different people than the ones who got those phone calls, than the ones who hugged you in the hallways, than the ones that can never again hear wonderwall without stopping to think of you.

I desperately wish that night would’ve my only encounter with the monster. Yet, time after time, the phone buzzes, the words are uttered, the heart breaks, the spirit is crushed.

If I never heard those words again, it would still have been too many times, it would still have been soul crushing weight, this night still will forever hold a magnitude as the night before our worlds changed. Because of you. And somehow, I want to find this to be poetic justice, that you must have felt so alone, yet by passing from one world to the next you have affected more lives than I think you probably could have imagined. But there isn’t justice in this world. There isn’t a healing balm. There is no time machine. There is only the movie playing in my head that reminds me of the week of October 1, 2012, and what it held, there is the picture show that repeats every phone call since then, and a voice echoing ever louder with the ticking of the clock, “we must do better.” Im sorry we didn’t for you. 

Learning to Rest

A month ago I made a hard decision. What felt like one of the hardest decisions I have made to date. I had to choose to take a break. I am not good at breaks, rest, slowing down. I measure myself by how much I accomplish. I find worth in my grades, my to-do list being checked off, pats on the back, jobs well done, and the fact I stay busy. 

I ask God a lot to teach me how to slow down. I ask Him to show my heart the meaning of the words “Be Still.” I ask Him to teach my heart the meaning of my worries being taken care of by Him. But I don’t ever really put this into practice. It seems every time I lay down my worries in front of Him, and every time I ask for my worth to be found in Him and not doing ALL THE THINGS, I still pick my duties back up, find my mind running rapid during quiet time, and I don’t ever actually slow down or find myself in Him. 

So as this semester should have been beginning, I found myself on Skype with my thesis committee chair/grad school advisor, in tears. I heard myself utter the words “I advocate for everybody else’s mental health, but I’m not taking care of my own.” As I uttered those words out loud, as this thought occurred to me for the first time, the seriousness of the situation struck me. I asked what the process was for taking a semester break to get my life under control. I heard my brain whispering to my heart that I might not ever find the strength to get myself in order. 

I have depression. I have anxiety. They have returned full force in the last few months. I found (still find) myself struggling to get out of bed on so many days. I take my medicine. I do frequently forget (or don’t feel like) exercising. I pray about my mental and emotional health, a lot. I know I dug my way out of this hole more than once in the past, but I don’t know the way out this time. I don’t know where to begin this time. Asking for help seems hard. The solutions that have been offered when I have asked don’t seem right. The harsh answers that have been given seem even harder to swallow. 

Yet, even in the midst of all of the struggles, and there have been plenty, I have seen small glimpses of grace. 

I also have been, and this will sound different than I mean it to, forcing myself to spend time with God’s Word as I search for His promises of rest. And He’s been teaching me. He’s been whispering to me heart:

Isaiah 41:10

Matthew 11: 28- 30

Jeremiah 29:11-13

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Psalm 46:10

Jonah 2:2

Psalm 61:2

Isaiah 42:2

Psalm 91:4

Exodus 44:14

Psalm 147:3

There is a precedent in God’s word for rest. To be still. I’m searching for that. I’ve run. I’ve run hard, in fact. I’ve served (Isaiah 6:8). I’ve prayed and waited. I’ve called upon the Lord. I’ve failed. I’ve trusted. I’ve succeeded. I’ve preserved. I’ve conquered mountains. But, the valley has returned. 

My struggles with mental and emotional health are not a sin. They may better me in the long run. But I’m determined they won’t define me. They may bring me down momentarily but I’m determined they won’t keep me in the valley. In trying to understand myself in these dark nights of the soul, im trying to understand the complexity of my human nature, and that of others. I know I have failed in so many way and I will continue to fail. My heart hurts for the wounds I carry from myself and those I’m still trying to find forgiveness for from others. But, Each step I take that seems to have a positive connotation feels like a big deal. Each day that I get up, make it through another day; accomplish tasks set before me, I am doing my best to remind myself that I am enough, and I am loved. As I try to become more gentle with myself to grow through this and heal, I hope I’ll become more gentle with others. And I hope to maybe even learn what it means to be still. Even if it’s for a few moments, that’s more than where we started. 

A Friday Lecture: Don’t Give Discounts

I shared some important words with my students for their weekly “Friday lecture” today. After giving my weekly safety lecture for the weekend, I spoke truth that had been laid on my own heart this week:

You set the standards for how others treat you, by how you treat yourself and by how you allow others to treat you. Your standards have a price. You should  respect those in authority; however, you must also respect yourself and the way you deserve to be treated by yourself and by your peers. If you allow person A to treat you badly, when person B enters your life they will believe they can also treat you with disrespect as person A is allowed to do. So, if someone cannot afford to meet your standards, you do have an option. You can choose to not accept this behavior and cut this person off, you do not have to give any discounts when it comes to treating you well. Know your worth, and live like you do.

Baggage & Lies

As I listened to my devotion this morning it asked me what my big lie was. The lie that held me back. The lie that kept me from loving and living fully. The lie that scared me. The lie that scarred my heart. 

 

I, full of fear, wrote a few months ago about the feeling that I am a bad friend. Those feelings did not dissipate over night…or at all. In fact, read something by a former friend that confirmed to me just what a terrible person and friend I have been all along. A small part of my heart whispered what she wrote could not be about me, it could totally be about someone else, but the biggest part of my heart told me even louder that I knew it was about me because who else could be as terrible a friend as I was. 

 

So, as I began this work year, I came in with feelings carried over from last year. As I began this academic graduate school year, I came in with my feelings of inferiority. I brought my bags with me. My bags marked “TERRIBLE FRIEND,” “NEVER ENOUGH,” “BURDEN,” “MY WAY OR ANXIETY,” “CHRONIC ILLNESS,” “NOBODY EVER UNDERSTANDS,” and “MAY FORGIVE BUT DEFINITELY CAN’T FORGET.” 

 

I walked down the quiet hallway towards my classroom on those workdays and played in my mind the hurtful words I caught a coworker speaking about me on more than one occasion. The words that this person said to other coworkers about me not being good at my job, about my failures in this person’s viewpoint, about their dislike for me. I replayed the way I saw another coworker roll their eyes every time I spoke, even though they thought I never saw. I replayed the way everyone else’s good news was celebrated, and I never received a congratulations on my nuptials, that were so long awaited. 

 

I replayed these incidents daily in the first weeks of school. I replay these incidents daily. 

 

I knew there was blame of my own to hold. I knew my own inclinations to withdraw. I know the way I am apt to stay in my room and keep to myself when I don’t feel welcome. I know I have been overwhelmed and had a lot to get done, so I have worked diligently in the hours I am here, instead of socializing. I know my own anxieties over not fitting in. I know that I’m more inclined to speak if spoken to first, and that when I do talk, I do overshare. Yet, I don’t think that any of these are fatal flaws that make me a bad educator, a bad coworker, or a bad person. 

 

I sent a text to my husband today when school ended. I told my best friend in the world that I miss having a work friend. At my first job it took a while. I learned there were people I could not trust. I learned that drama does not end in high school or college. I learned that some of the most hurtful words can come from people that you think you can trust as the people you really see the most often as members of your work team. But, I also made one of my favorite friendships in the world. I made a friendship that I love when my phone rings with this person calling. I made a friendship that this person stood at the altar with me when I married the love of my life. I made a friendship that I could go to their office during my free time and get my work done, but they were also a safe space that we were so comfortable with each other sometimes there was definitely no work getting done because we were venting so that we were able to work for the rest of the day/week. I miss that connection. I don’t have that here. I tried. And yet again, my heart was hurt. 

 

I tried to make a friend. I tried to open up this year. I thought this year could be different. I thought as I adjusted, as I taught a subject I loved, I would hit my stride in year two here and fit in and find friends. But today, words were spoken to me that made me realize in my room, with my work, is where I need to be. My baggage that I hoped would get a little smaller this year, just grew a little more stuffed. 

 

My lie just got a little bit louder. My heart has whispered again to look how lonely we are here at work, but all lies tend to have a smidgen of truth, I think. Otherwise they would have never formed as thoughts to begin with. 

 

I am so sad, and I wish I could put it more eloquently, that adults can act like they are in middle and high school. I am so sad that we don’t have more respect for each other. I am sad that the golden rule did not sink in for us as children. I am sad that we see each other disposable, useless. And I’m sad that if we don’t like each other we can’t just be upfront about it. There’s something to be said about being truthful yet cordial. I don’t believe in fake. Fake is a waste of time. Love who you love, like who you like, be cordial to everyone, because whether you care for someone or not, and whether or not you care to be their friend, every life, every mind, every heart is valuable, and some are far more fragile than others. I would rather not waste my time on someone who is faking being my friend and is talking about me behind my back, and would prefer to spend that time cultivating true relationships including the one with myself that is a lifelong process of growth and love. 

 

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk. 

In the Mourning & my hope for the future

*names are redacted as I doubt this will go anywhere beyond my friend group but it has the ability to do so.*

The day I started teaching I was bright eyed. Tonight I sit here blurry eyed with tears.

It’s officially past midnight making it the 20th. It’s officially been a month.

A month ago, at 7:11 pm, I read a message that made me sick to my stomach. Even right now it makes my breath stop in my chest.

Less than 12 hours ago, coming home from errands today, I was driving home and was stopped there. And I paused my audiobook and just sat there and wondered why.

It was on my mind a lot in the last 24 hours. I saw a boy (I’m sorry I say boy I know you were technically a young man, but you were one of my babies) that reminded me of you. His body language reminded me of the way you held yourself in my classroom and the countless times I passed you in the hallway.

I walked into a shoe store and pretended to look. One of the clerks tried to make eye contact and I watched them read the look on my face then walk away.

I kicked myself for the fact that a little over 3 weeks ago, I stood next to your casket and choked through half of the words I wrote about you. I didn’t make it through before I sat down. And I still feel like I owe you more than that.

These are the words I had written down, if it’s okay for me to tell you now:

From the first day that students enter my classroom, I welcome them with the fact that they are now my “kids.” I taught J* his junior year. His class was something special They were the first time I watched my students truly embrace the concept of family in the classroom. It was a privilege to watch J grow as a student and young man in the time I had him. [I added somewhere in here, something along the lines of that the day of that so many of your classmates were there and that showed me that class’ community]

I’ve reflected over the last week on memories of that semester, particularly those of J. And I have three things that come to my mind and stick with me. The first are his headphones. Every day he bopped to whatever song was playing while he took his notes. But ever so respectfully, he would move one side away from his ear to listen when I was speaking, I took this as his desire to learn.

The second thing that sticks in my mind is his smile and laugh. There was a lot of laughter in his class. They had fun while they learned and J was always friendly with his classmates. I did not know him to have conflict with any of them. He had a life skill that many of us could use to just be friendly and relaxed. He loved well and I think that has really been shown over the last week.

Lastly his determination. I saw this in a few aspects of his life, through the bonds he formed and fought for, through his work in my classroom, but also one of my favorite memories, of his unique ability to sleep through a noisy classroom watching a movie after an exam, and he had three desks pushed together because he was determined he was taking a nap.

The last week has been hard. I see it on your faces today. I see it in the posts online where I’ve read countless memories and the love you had for this sweet boy. I feel it myself.

As we collectively struggle to find peace in these moments of grief- I truly believe that you should rest in the idea that while he is not physically here, he is looking down on you, bopping along to the song playing through his beats, and smiling. And when we see him in the after life, he’ll pull his headphones to the side and greet us with that warm friendship we will all remember him for. Until that day, I think we’re called to live the friendship he showed so many of you, because I think that’s what he would want. It was and is an honor to have had him as one of mine, thank you, Miss R, for letting me love yours like one of my own for the brief time I had him, that will never leave me.”

 

If I were to be honest, today the thought crossed my mind that as a teacher I’ve failed my kids. I’ve lost two of them. Each time someone my age has passed since I graduated high school 8 years ago, I haven’t understood, and I’ve always felt like it happens too frequently, because we’ve lost too many people that walked my high school halls with me. I’ve never wanted that to be the feeling that my “kids” experienced. The fact that two of “mine” have been lost makes me feel like somehow I didn’t protect them enough.

It makes me feel like I didn’t give enough Friday lectures.

It makes me feel like I didn’t hug them enough.

It makes me feel like I didn’t remind them enough to be safe because they were so valued and they mean(t) so much to their classmates, their families, me.

It makes me feel like I didn’t literally say the words “you are valued. You are loved. You are so important. You are enough,” to them enough.

If you’re one of mine, and I didn’t say it enough, I’m so sorry. Please accept this as my way of telling you now and I hope you’ll hear it in your heart and mind every day.

I never imagined losing one of you. I never wanted to. I’m sorry I did. Im sorry I was afraid to go to the first funeral. I’m sorry my words standing at the second fell so short.

I hope each of the rest of the 600+ of you outlives me by so many years and makes the most of the days you have ahead. I hope you make everyone around you proud. I hope you remember that life is short and use that as a lesson to remain safe and to also honor those that you’ve lost along the way, because it will and should shape you. I hope that even on the hard days that you realize how absolutely loved and needed you are…and if you ever need to be reminded and don’t feel like you have somewhere else to go, please come to me because I’ll remind you, and be longwinded, emotional, well-meaning, and most likely cliched about it.

Xoxo, Freeman