community

Touched

I need to write this now to capture what I feel and use this post as a reminder of why I choose to do the work I do, or even be the person I want to be.

Last month, I attended a 3-day training for WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). There was an individual, R, in one of my groups. We were writing our responses on a topic on a large piece of paper. R shared with us that he had some difficulty writing due to his anxieties and fearing that his handwriting would be judged. I remember acknowledging him and his courage to share such information with us. From there, I remember I did what I could to support him, whether it was asking if he wanted  someone to write on his behalf or encourage him to share out to the large group. It was a short 3 days, but I remembered him and I remembered how much power he had in the sharing of his vulnerabilities.

This week, I started the 5-day training for the same program. Lo and behold, R was here too! This whole week, I have been utterly amazed by him. He has been sharing more during large group discussions, he’s been sharing in small and large groups, and today, he wrote in front of the large group on the poster paper. He even signed up for a role playing part and I was just so blown away by how much he was challenging himself to do things that made him uneasy. I am amazed and inspired.

Today (Thursday), as we were both leaving the training, he shared with me how he felt. He said that I would forever be in his mind as he is continuing his growth process. He said that when we make eye contact, he feels warm, he feels good. He told me that he was appreciative of me and what I had done for him. In that moment, I felt so much joy for him. I felt so much pride that he had pushed himself so much, even with sharing his feelings and thoughts with me. I felt so touched, so deeply touched, that I had been able to play a part in his life, a part I didn’t even realize I was playing.

I want to capture this feeling. I got to my car and I cried a little out of joy and out of happiness. I felt so validated in being the person I want to be and doing the work I want to do. I have this really good and really warm feeling in my heart because I get to be a part of this process, I get to be a part of his process. I don’t know where life will take us, but I’m glad that we were able to share these moments together.

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As I am continuing this post today (Friday), I am again touched by the warmth of others. Yesterday, one of the training participants was having a really challenging day. I had serendipitously walked into a space where she was visibly and emotionally upset. I offered my support and stayed with her for a bit before she requested time for herself. Today, she shared her appreciation for my actions and gifted me a rock she had painted. I’m usually not one for touchy-feely gifts, but this one really touches my feelies.

With any large group, I am usually apprehensive and reluctant to throw myself completely into the group. I still am and I acknowledge that is my piece and when I choose to show up and participate, it is meaningful and part of my own process. But the gifts, physical and not, that I have received this week have really touched my heart. I am so deeply moved to be here in this space and so deeply grateful that I was given the opportunity to be in this specific group. I came into the training thinking that I would be learning about the material, how to facilitate, etc – all the mechanics of the program. Instead, I am left with the warmth and kindness and while sometimes it totally bugs me that everyone is so positive all the time, I am grateful for the unconditional positive regard everyone has for one another.

This week was a great example of: You won’t remember what was said, but you’ll always remember how you felt.

Society

Someone the other day said it perfectly. This is bigger than gun control. This is bigger than mental health. While both of those things are important, but the much larger issue at hand is that someone felt devalued in his masculinity because we as a society had created this notion that in order to feel worthy, a man needed to have gotten laid multiple times by beautiful women. That for this individual, he believed that his worth came from the attention only beautiful women could give him and that in itself is a tragedy. That other “non-beautiful” women were not worthy of his time either and that his idea of “beautiful” pertained to the “hot blondes” he was surrounded by.

We, as a society, created a place in which many believe that a female refusing advances from a male is her fault and in order for her to defend herself, she needs to pull the “I have a boyfriend” card because only then will those males leave her alone out of the respect of that “other male.”

We, as a society, teach our children to be safe from predators, but not to teach them to not be predators themselves. Should they fail to be careful, that is their fault for any crimes committed upon them.

We, as a society, created a world in which the males who do not treat their female counterparts in misogynistic ways do not feel comfortable to teach their male peers the same and will often chuckle when the “jackass” of the group continues on his merry way.

I don’t want to say that all men are bad and evil, etc. I don’t think even rapists are inherently terrible themselves because they have been taught that they way they go about treating women is okay and that someone who is “promiscuous” deserves it or because she is asking for it with the skimpy clothing. The female race should not tempt the heterosexual males unless they want it themselves. That is the message. And even then, many feel a sense of power and entitlement to do what they please to the females.

One of my biggest irks is when men argue that being whistled at is a compliment and that women should be flattered by it. I, at the age of 14/15, was leered at – mind you, in jeans a t-shirt – by men as they were driving by. It is not flattering. It’s disturbing. It’s degrading. I am a person, not an object.

So many times, I have given into these societal teachings. Giving men at the club a fake number. Dancing with them for fear of retribution. Having to dance with a purse behind my or a friend’s ass to prevent random guys from grinding up on us. That I would feel so much freer dancing at a gay club than at any other club because the possibility that someone will grind up on me in a sexual way is way, way lower. That I have to always watch my surroundings when I’m walking at night. That I couldn’t say no to a partner for fear of what he would do.

Even now, I find myself falling to some of these traps. It’s hard to forget because I still don’t feel safe. That should not be the world we live in. That should not be the world anybody, male or female or trans, should live in. But to be honest, I don’t even know where we can begin to change the views of this society. I see what it does to the ethnic minorities and unless you live in a special enclave where this ideological thinking is pervasive in everything that you do, I cannot see it making it very far, which is really unfortunate.

So we will continue to blame the lack of gun control. We will continue to blame the lack of mental health services. Blame the parents who didn’t provide enough for their children, whatever else we want to blame.

But ourselves.

 

Further reading: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/27/your-princess-is-in-another-castle-misogyny-entitlement-and-nerds.html