17 July 2021
i got this emotions wheel magnet, to help me better pause and take stock. i found helpful for, like, A MINUTE, but now i keep finding myself wandering off wheel.
it has so many words but, so often, i find they are inadequate.
thursday's therapy session legit looked like this:
for two weeks now, when i lie down in bed to go to sleep, it is as though i have run a marathon.
for three out of the last four days, my head has hurt.
my shoulders are riding up by my ears again.
i think we were about an hour into therapy when i said, i just feel responsible for so many people right now.
on june 29th, the president of that biographers organization i used to be a part of sent me a message on facebook asking if i'd like to talk about what happened, why i left.
no, no, i wouldn't. the 6th was coming around which meant the 16th was coming around which meant the fortnight every month when i go into survival mode was already back on the horizon. no. i didn't want to revisit a whole other trauma.
i wrote her back that i would be willing to speak to her that afternoon.
i cannot overstate how unexpected this was.
i cannot overstate how odd it is to be bracing for all these other things and then suddenly to be whacked over the head with this other.
i thought i was doing really well. i thought i was unaffected. it wasn't until i relayed this to k during our sunday walk last weekend and found myself entirely winded that i was like oh, we might have a problem.
miscalibrated is the word for how i feel this week.
i don't know that it's even a word. maybe wonky would be better. but there was a technical, engineeringy element to the sensation as well that miscalibrated seems to better capture.
like when you pull the compass out and it throws itself all over the place trying to get its bearings.
no, no, i don't want to talk about this but i will. not because i want to but because i'm so very grateful to have your attention, to have your concern, thank you for this brief validating moment. starving for crumbs, i'll take it!
i hate this place.
i took her call.
i told her what had happened.
every time i tried to minimize it, downgrading it in some imaginary hierarchy of sexual violence, the president of this organization wouldn't let me. she'd say, no, it's a big deal. it's big.
and i'd say oh, yeah, i guess it is. thank you for saying so.
i hate how much i've thanked her in the last few weeks. i hate how grateful i feel that anyone cares.
a few days later, cosby was released, and phylicia rashad-- who is in a position of power at the institution where i work-- released her tweet of support.
i cannot overstate how shitty that felt. i cannot overstate how deeply worried i have already been that we have two classes of students-- approximately 5,500 18 and 19-year-olds-- about to hit our college campus for the first time. a college campus that, prior to this, already had a violent history of failing to protect students who have experienced sexual assault.
i cannot overstate how unprotected for myself and for my students i felt reading that tweet and, subsequently, hearing my own colleagues brainstorming ways to engage rashad in our union fight.
i'm not being eloquent here. just stating facts and feelings.
i'm writing because my head hurts and i'm trying to get it to stop.
no wonder you're feeling out of alignment, my therapist said. you had about nine triggers this week alone.
i tried to clear the decks and take care of myself on the 16th, the 6 month mark of the recent date rape. instead, i popped out of bed with words at the ready, and spent 4 hours producing some of the best writing i've produced in months.
i resent that my best writing now is being put towards private memos.
i resent that some of the best writing i have done in all of my career is about horrible, awful men.
when i posted "men have raped me," i told debo that rape wasn't going to become my brand.
that's sounds awful and also glib and also i meant it. this is not what i do.
but it maybe actually is and has been for awhile?
writing is hard now because it isn't a release. it's my craft and my profession and a practice that is critical to my mental health.
but also, even in my academic stuff, i write about horrible, awful things.
there is nowhere to go, it seems, nowhere to get away to.
i talked to KBG this morning and she told me of her recent stay at the beach, and i was struck with so much envy. I NEED A BEACH!!!
my therapist had me do some guided visualization. she asked me to think of myself in a safe place, which it was pretty clear, from the guidance, she assumed was tropical.
hand on heart, i visualized myself as claude asleep in a sunbeam.
the safest place i can envision right now is being my own cat, in my own home, in my own care.
that is where we are.
i quote that a lot, because when i first read it, it encapsulated much of what i felt as an immigrant. the precarity. the complete collapse of any sense of stability and the lingering effects of that.
06 July 2021
the kennedys are like carbonated water, jackie said, allegedly, once. and all other families are flat.
i feel flat.
like, i'm ok. and, also, i feel flat. you know?
it's probably because i feel we're in the middle rather than arrived at the end. and you can't really relax when you can't bring yourself to believe it's over. because then you're still waiting, still tensed.
but, also, IT ISN'T OVER, right? right??!?! RIGHT???!?!?
i've not believed in stability for awhile now, while also maybe being, at present, more stable than i've been in a long, long while. at least in terms of being rooted where i am, as opposed to flailing about in the wind.
i own a home rather than renting. which basically just means i pay my money to a different entity-- a less stable one, so it seems, as they've changed twice now and i am still right here. i am still me.
i took a "what's your relationship style?" quiz the other day and it shook me. i am possessive and loyal.
they were not wrong.
someone has left my life, a dear, dear friend who screamed at me for forty minutes a month ago. and it feels right, it feels ok, it feels-- if we're being honest here-- like something of a relief.
at the same time, it feels like there is a window open somewhere. a breeze that flaps through but i cannot locate its origins.
it is the best thing, the right thing. it is, i am coming to realize, not ok for men to scream at me. my guts, i am slowly coming to realize, are usually right. when i feel things in my body, it's my body trying to get me out of there.
the other night, i dreamed i collapsed, sobbing, on lady gaga.
the night before that, i dreamed something horrible about burvil. one of those dreams where you wake up convinced the person you just dreamed about has died in the night.
joe showed up in the middle of it. joe always shows up to shut a bad dream down. but, here, he was clearly an automaton, so it was helpful so much as furtherly nightmarish.
i feel flat. and i am writing and then this happens.
05 July 2021
21 June 2021
i went back to the dentist today, for a filling. my therapist wanted me to make a point of asking for at least one break. in the spirit of developing new patterns wherein i do not power through pain and discomfort.
after, nanette asked if i'd asked for a break and i told her i wasn't entirely sure. i think, rather, that it was offered and i took it and i told her that i had been told to take a break. so, that i was supposed to take a break was communicated. does that count? is that enough? can i check this off the list?
i told two people i'd been sexually assaulted and might need to take breaks. i told the dentist things might be easier with a stress ball. her assistant gave me two and asked which i preferred. the stress ball helped.
the filling was mercifully quick. the dentist was mercifully good at her job, and good at communicating what she was about to do. there were no surprises.
i remember, she told me when i told her.
that's your mouth protecting you, the assistant who cleaned my teeth prior told me when i told her the x-rays the last time had been a horrible ordeal. i wanted to weep when she said this.
you did so well, she told me when it was over. i wanted to weep when she said that too.
on the way back from memphis, i overnighted in roanoke. the hotel i though i'd carefully chosen because the room access was internal rather than via a balcony looked like a murder den. as in, i was afraid to leave my stuff in the car. it looked that dirty and unsafe.
it took a series of escalating horrors for me to accept that i'd have to blow the 60 bucks and stay elsewhere, but i did it. i hauled my wreck of a self, gasping i am safe, i am safe, i am safe, to a hotel one exit up, where i took one of the hottest showers of my life and burned off all my skin.
my therapist always wants me to say how it feels to be in my body and i never know. it's not that i don't have words but that i do not know. but i'm getting better, i think, because i've started paying attention.
at the dentist, when i let the stress ball go, my fingers shook violently with the adrenaline.
at the hotel, the anxiety sat on my chest, like when fezzik used to settle his 15 pounds on my chest and fall asleep so i'd awake with a start, convinced i was in cardiac distress.
this will not last forever. i think i do believe that. i certainly get on my soap box and tell other people that. but it's alarming how often shit happens and i feel it.
yesterday, i went to get a massage. i always see zana. i only see zana. only zana is allowed to touch me.
when a man i've never seen before came to collect me for some 90 minute thing i'd not booked, i was like I BELONG TO ZANA!!! after the confusion (there was another caroline) was cleared, i sat back in the waiting room, breathing deeply, trying to know the feelings, trying to calm myself, alarmed by how activating the prospect of someone other than zana touching me had been.
these are discrete moments. localized. i'm not like this always.
E came over for pie and early supper and hanging out last friday. her boyfriend joined us and sat between us on the couch. it was fine. everything was fine. she realized before i did that a man was coming to my home, and, realizing that, she checked in. and everything was fine.
the trouble is not knowing where it begins and ends, so it can happen whenever. i guess the good thing is that i have people around me who can carve out space to settle into.
the relief that came from being in memphis was of not having to care for myself to the degree that i have over the last year and a half but 2021 most especially.
in the first half of the year, solidly five things occurred for which, in non-pandemic times, my mother would have been on my doorstep as fast as she could. but she couldn't. and so i made it on my own. and saying that now feels incredibly self-indulgent. maybe i'm being melodramatic. the temptation is, as always, to police one's self, to distrust one's self, to detached from what happened and how bad it was and i refuse to do that.
shit happened. the six months after were hell on earth. and we (because i'mma throw claude in there for good measure) are getting through.
10 June 2021
briefly, but she seems to have had an idea of who i was. if not entirely, at the least, she knew she liked me.
her bed was full of crumbs. i was wearing shorts. they stuck to my knees.
when we left, it was like i'd kneeled on the uncleaned floor of a bakery.
an hour later, the crumb prints were still indentions in my skin.
we thought we woke her up-- debo and i-- because it took her a few minutes of blinking at us, like someone moving into sudden light. but then, after the manic display of good humor and chatter (a mode i only ever put into effect in assisted living facilities), she flashed me a conspiratorial look such that i could internally sigh: YES. i am in.
burvil is ok. burvil is looked after and cared for. burvil is safe.
but god, ya'll, is it ever sad that we are sometimes blessed with lives longer than our minds or bodies can bear.
04 June 2021
i think straight men have forgotten how to ask questions. this is my conclusion from the dating apps.
i no longer fear sounding shrill. what i fear is sounding bitter.
zana (the massage therapist) said i should try hinge. that was my homework. so i did it. like that was going to have some effect on the pain in my arm. but the straight men, they do not ask questions. they have forgotten how to have a conversation. or maybe they never knew.
it's bizarre, being erased in your own conversation.
i refuse. i am not here for that.
i have something to say here but i don't know what it is.
keep writing, i tell my students. fill up all the space. even when you don't know where you're going, keep writing.
i want them to feel comfortable with their words.
i am writing again.
i count it as a victory that i have been writing through the last few months. i am attaching words to where i am, which seems crucial given the necessity of words by which to locate one's self.
i do not want to write about the rapes.
i do not want to be someone who only writes about rapes.
i don't have therapy this week.
every time i take a week off, i wind up in some state of crisis and i have to call her.
nina. her name is nina. my therapist is nina.
the massage therapist is zana.
my rapist was nate. so i can't swipe right on any of them. or the clarks.
he wrote me around my birthday in 2019. clark. the guy in college.
that is a part of this, i know. i am bracing. i've not heard from him since then, but the threat persists. he could surface.
this must be so boring to read! some bitter woman banging on about all this.
but i'm struck by the differences.
i've signed up for a lecture on writing about sexual assault. it's being led by someone who was raped by a stranger while walking in a park.
i envy that. i fucking hate myself for envying that, but i do.
a stranger might be easier. or at least different. and more random.
these other people, these people who know you, who you're involved with and attracted to and dating. it's so fucking messed up.
it is so fucking messed up.
not just that this happens but that it happens so casually. that it is so easily confused for dating.
i remember the first time, on his nephew's bunk bed. i've written about that already.
i remember the time in his mother's shower. i think he may have said "i've got you." because i was afraid of slipping and falling and getting caught. because i was trying to stop it.
i remember the time on the stairs at my parents' house. i do not remember him. what i remember is listening, straining to listen because my hearing is bad and i wanted to be sure to hear the popping of garebear's toes.
always, his toes are a giveaway. always, they pop. ever since i was a little girl, when he'd try to sneak up on me, i'd catch him because of his popping toes.
but garebear didn't come. his mother didn't come. no one ever came.
k.clen sent me pre-birthday balloons today. and it mattered more than i can tell you. more than i can even tell her.
i am, currently, i feel, existing in a state of deliberate messiness.
i am seeking refuge in a state of deliberate messiness.
k.clen sent me pre-birthday balloons and i took photographs of thanks...
29 May 2021
17 May 2021
today, i got in a fight with my parents because they took their masks off in church. which surfaced the deeper truth that i do not trust church to keep anyone safe.
so that's fun.
i called a family meeting. they came. we talked emotional dynamics and came up with two new phrases for the familect.
i'm coming in hot.
fire in the hole!
yesterday, it was four months since a man raped me.
these events are maybe not unrelated.
i'm texting him again.
do i feel shame? i don't think so. i think i recognize it for the coping mechanism that it is and i am ok with how i am coping.
this afternoon, as a very round-about way of getting to the grocery store, i walked down to lafayette square. a guy i went on date with in march had texted that they've opened up the park.
and, yo, lookit.
The mouse enters the cage to take a bite. No sooner does he touch the morsel with his teeth, than the trip wire releases the door and it slams shut behind him, before he can turn his head.
It takes a mouse several hours to realise that he is a prisoner, unhurt, in a cage measuring 18cm. by 9cm. After that, something in him never stops trembling.
13 May 2021
on tuesday, i went to the dentist. it was the first time something i didn't want went into my mouth since his dick.
i warned my therapist of my fear last week. i said, my fear is once we get going this is going to be like one of those magicians with the handkerchiefs, on and on pulling them out of their sleeves.
the hits keep coming.
it was the x-rays that did me in. i already knew i was going to have to tell the dentist that i'd been raped (ie. a man had raped me). i knew i was going to need to do that in order to feel safe. what i didn't factor in was how out of control i was going to feel before doing that, nor how activating it was going to be to endure discomfort.
to lay there and take it.
to open up.
i seriously do not know how i will ever go to the gynecologist again.
what are you feeling in your body? my therapist asks.
i wonder if my numbness frustrates her.
in the moment, after the x-rays and before the arrival of the dentist, i noted the adrenaline was in my torso so that i could tell her later.
hey, look, i felt something in my body!!! like a cat laying a dead mouse at its owner's feet.
this is a thread i do not want to pull. it feels like some sort of rape/assault hide-and-go-seek.
our metaphor was driving around the neighborhood and pulling the car into the driveway of the house of the abusive relationship from college.
i don't know what the metaphor is that describes how it is that i am actually going about this.
there are black spots. there are a lot of things i do not remember.
i'll allow the possibility does exist that some of it was wanted, some of it wasn't coercive, but then again, it seems like you can only be told you're a cocktease so many times before you're totally worn down and all of your decision-making is taken away from you and you have no choices left.
looking back, there were no choices. only grad school.
grad school got me out.
i want so very very hard for it not to count. my brain works overtime for ways to make it not count. because he wanted it so it can't be unwanted, right? even if i wouldn't have done it had i any choices left.
mercifully, i seem to have edited him (this is "college man"-- not "the date rapist") out of my memories. what i remember is waiting for the adults, bracing for the adults, to come and catch me and blame me and save me.
the adults never came.
i do not blame them.
debo reads my essay and expresses her guilt and i tell her NO. NO. we are not to blame here. in therapy, i say i do not blame myself, i do not feel guilt, but as i tell her this, i'm aware i'm extending to her a generosity unavailable to myself.
but this man abused our daughter, debo says and i am distraught for debo's daughter.
how dreadful for this to have happened to debo's daughter.
that it has happened to me feels less severe.
but stick it in the constellation of family relationships and i'm all like, omg, debo's daughter has been harmed!!!
my therapist asks if i want her to investigate whether the statute of limitations is up and i say no. because what even is there to say? how is this a story that can be prosecuted? how is this a story that can even be told?
there's the time in the lower bunk of the nephew's bed.
the time in his mother's shower.
the time on the back stairs at my parents house.
there are all the times i bled.
there's the way in which he took over my whole life so that i would go to the gym for three hours a day and, junior year of college, claimed wednesday nights as my alone night where i wouldn't be expected to shave my legs or see him.
this puts that picture from your graduation in a whole new light, debo says.
and i'm not sure whether it does or if this is something we're imposing upon it.
i was angry at him, undoubtedly, for showing up to my graduation, uninvited. i was dating donovan (albeit secretly, because we both feared that, if this man knew, he would beat him up). i did not want this man there. i didn't want him talking to me or my family.
there are actually two pictures. in one, i look fine.
04 May 2021
17 April 2021
this is not an anniversary. there's not a word for what this is.
yesterday, i booked a 60 minute massage, because i'd almost recovered from the last one whilst still not having full feeling in my upper left arm.
it feels like COVID vaccine. the COVID vaccine felt like someone had punched the fucking shit out of my arm and that is how this feels, not just for a day but for forever.
zana-- the therapist-- says my neck is loosening.
she knows what happened. because i walked in all I AM HERE BECAUSE I WAS RAPED, because i didn't know how i'd react and i really need to be in control right now.
last saturday, when i hung out with a colleague, and he entertained the idea of eating indoors and was all but we're vaxxed, i was like NOPE. it is, in some ways, easier to ask for what one wants now. i do not recommend to anyone that rape is the best way to reach that moment of personal growth. i'm just saying that is where i am.
yesterday, three months after, zana asked if i was ok to talk about what happened. because she asked, i did. in situations where i have control, i am ok.
we sensing a theme here?
after my therapy session after that horrible last friday, when my therapist told me to go do something nice for myself, i snagged a copy of a sweet valley high novel from the little free library over on T street.
reading that was, quite honestly, granted the most peace i have been able to locate in months.
i don't want to say that i impulse bought 75+ volumes of the sweet valley high series on ebay. because that would not be accurate. i was very strategic. i researched. i read every listing for bulk buys. i considered the preponderance of sequential volumes. i bid ridiculously high on one set and lost, only to find an almost equally good set for less, which i bought instantly.
this is probably healthier than drowning myself in wine or clothes. a summer jaunt to sweet valley, some quality time with those silly size six twins and their matching laveliers...
14 April 2021
06 April 2021
i have paid admission.
i have paid admission and i will not go until i am due to present at 9 am on this saturday.
in part, because i am exhausted. how is this semester even still happening? how are we even still doing this?
a student emails me at 4:30 am to tell me their sister was shot by her boyfriend so their going to miss class today.
a student emails me at 5:30 pm to tell me that they have discussed with their therapist the possibility of inpatient care but they think they can power through this semester.
in the feedback N provided on this paper i'm presenting at this conference, she suggested i talk about how language empowers us.
reader, it does not.
it fucking cuts us up!!!!
i say that. i do not believe it. not wholly.
in today's live classes they were doing research. one student has been writing about ghosting but, in their essay, what they described sounded different.
today, they found the word for it: orbiting.
the way their face lit up on camera!!!
the way we feel when we find the word for the experience we thought we were alone in!!!!
but also jesus fucking christ. i refuse to be empowered. empowerment blows. it lets the systems and institutions off the hook. i refuse.
this paper i'm delivering is the one about kim kardashian and lost time. the one i spent the whole of the trump presidency working on. i quoted a bit of it in the post-before-the-last-post. maybe you are familiar.
i seesaw between feeling completely alive and joyous ("delight" was the word i applied when speaking with my parents the other evening, beholding my sunset out my window) and just utterly bombed out.
this is teaching. this is trauma. this is pandemic. this is rape. this is a whole tangled knot of things.
so many of my students are writing about sexual violence. which means i cancelled my therapy session this week, wherein we are processing sexual violence, in order to read student essays on sexual violence.
that isn't irony, but it's something.
i had the thought today of what if this isn't over? what if we have to do this again in the fall? but then, last night, as i was trying to fall into what would ultimately be my second night in a row of nightmares, i had the potentially even worse thought of what if i'm expected to teach in person next year and i have to go back to not being able to hear my own students??!
truly, there is no win.
in my ideal world, i would continue teaching online and they would continue loving me there and i would continuing being able to hear them whilst also not having to fear for anyone's life.
but nothing about this has ever been easy, so why would we ever expect that to change?
they really give you so much freedom, debo says when i tell her we're moving to just one live session per week. and i realize i never told her we're actually only required to do one live session per week.
i have been going above and beyond.
i have been going above and beyond and yet, still, i always feel guilty. i always feel it is never enough.
i do it because i think it genuinely makes learning easier on them. but maybe also because it makes life easier on me? as WRB said, they are the totality of our social lives right now.
which is maybe 75-83% true for me. because i also have weekly union meetings and therapy and walks with K.
in april 2015, i came to DC to do research. i stayed in a flat in capitol hill. the cherry trees were close to bloom or just past bloom. i don't know, but i took pictures of them. and i hiked across busses and trains to get out to NARA. and i viewed the collections at the LOC. (the man who raped me works at the LOC, so i will not be going there now.)
in april 2019, i came to DC for a long weekend, for a conference. i stayed in a flat in the neighborhood where i live now. i went to maybe two sessions (including my own) of the conference, in a neighborhood i later house-sat in. i made out in the street with a peruvian one street over from where i would, six months later, live. i bought sushi from the safeway where i bought that same sushi tonight.
the whole point of this kardashian piece i should be working on right now-- the whole point of everything i write, basically-- is that we do not know what will happen next, we do not know where the story will go and, in that messiness, lay all the beauty. the horror too, but also the beauty and the beauty is what matters most. the beauty is what sustains us as we deconstruct the horror.
last spring, i told my students how, in the fall of 1999, when i was a freshman in mississippi with no friends, after my grandmother died, i used to sit on a hill every night and watch the sun set.
in the spring of 2015, having just written the whole of jackie's 64-years-long life in, like, ONE YEAR of mine, i wandered DC somewhat catatonic, in love with a man who did not return that love and did not respond to my letter, consumed by the fact that we will, all of us, one day die, appalled by the evils people do upon others.
today, 80 days removed from my most recent rape, i walked in the sunshine. later, i watched claude snuggle into a stream of it.
i've a dim awareness that i am not ok, but i will be. we will be. in the end, inevitably, even as we go forward on the road to imminent disaster, it will all of it-- all of it-- work out ok.
there is beauty, if not in the disaster then in the mess.