Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Visiting Angels and Running in Louisiana

I took a trip to Louisiana over the weekend. I had a wonderful time until about the end where I had a streak of bad luck that cumulated in me coming down with pneumonia. But I don't want to talk about that LOL.

I've been training for the Donut Run which will take place in April. I feel confident that with the training I've been doing I'll be able to finish with a decent time. When making the hotel reservations, I made sure that they offered a gym room. I have to tell you, I was hoping for good weather so I could run in Louisiana and see the sights. Unfortunately, the forecast was for thunderstorms. So, I ended up on the dread mill instead.

My plan was Friday go to Sacramento (2 hour drive) in the AM then drive to Oakland (2 hour drive)after my work meeting in Sac. Oakland would hop on a plan, land in Dallas (3 hour flight) then drive to Shreveport (3 hour drive). A friend of mine was in a play so I was to attend the play, stay in Shreveport then drive to New Orleans (5 hour drive) to meet with another friend. After NOLA I was to drive back to Dallas (7 hour drive), hop on a plane and land in Oakland (4 hour flight) again before heading back home (3 hour drive). So, in a 3 day time span, 27 of those hours were devoted to being in transit. Seems excessive but so worth it in the end!

I wound up in Shreveport at 5am on Saturday morning.  I wasn't super tired  but got a nap in before getting up, working on my book, and eating the best gumbo I've ever tasted. After attending my friend's play (Bonnie and Clyde, A New Musical) I went back to my hotel and fell asleep. That night I had a dream that my father in law (who passed away in 2006) was with me in my hotel room and I was telling him how much I missed him and why in the world did he grow a beard?

Sunday morning I got up, and had a nice jaunt on the dread mill before driving down to Mandeville, which is the town across the Ponchartrain from NOLA. I got there about an hour early and spent my time walking down the lake and just taking it all in. After the dread mill it was nice to be out and walking in nature.
I spent a good half an hour just gazing at the lake, it's huge and beautiful. I saw a lot of people running along the lake. Unfortunately, it was more humid than I'm used to and it felt like I was sweating even though I wasn't. I couldn't live here, I wouldn't be able to run outside and this wasn't even a bad day lol.
So, on my way to Dallas, I wanted to drive through NOLA. I ended up not doing so. Now, I'm going to use this qualifier: I am not a Christian. I identify a agnostic, meaning I think there's something out there but I'm not going to put a name on it. I believe in spirits, helpers, energy, etc. I believe that a spirit world runs parallel to our world and that spirits have the option to impact our lives. The unexplainable, I suppose. I could feel energy radiating from NOLA and it felt as though something were chasing me as I drove through the swampland. It was strange. It felt, dark and scary. I started praying that I get to Dallas in one piece. Right outside of Shreveport, I blew a tire and wound up missing my flight. I rebooked and got to my destination just fine. Now, the bad thing about this is that the non stop flight from Dallas to Oakland turned into a flight from Dallas to LA to Oakland.
So, on the flight from LA to Oakland, I got settled into my seat so ready to be home. I got a little excited when it seemed as though no one else was getting on the plane and the seat beside me was still empty. Just when they were going to close the doors, another passenger appeared. He was tall and lanky, older gentleman. He said he was 84 and was named George. What was striking to me is that he looked just like my father in law but had a beard. I saw his hands first that had those bruise-blood splotches older people get when they're on blood thinner medication. They looked like my father in law's hands. As I was talking with him I noticed he had problems hearing, just like my father in law. I tried to tuck my bad arm in and we began a conversation about my accident. I told him that I had stopped breathing after surgery and that I was worried about my future health, etc. He looked me right in the eye and said "Don't worry, you have many years left to live. You have important work to do." I thought that was a strange comment to make. He also told me that he didn't have a ride home because he was originally supposed to land in San Fransisco but had to change flights. I told him that I lived off Hwy 101 and he then told me he lived in a rest home right near there and would I mind taking him in exchange for $20 and dinner. I can never say  no to someone in need.
 As the flight went on, I started thinking about landing in Oakland and getting some Chipotle on the way home. There isn't a Chipotle near my home so it's a nice treat. About 15 mins before we were to land, he was pondering dinner and said "I want to go to this one place, I can never remember it's name. They serve sustainable food and it's a National chain. YOU know the name, I know you do." so I asked "Chipotle?" and he smiled really big. "Yeah, Chipotay" he said. He started telling me he was a minister and that he was at the Selma march. That he was big on civil rights.
So, I took him to Chipotle and headed over the Richmond bridge to 101. He then started telling me not to worry, that everything would be fine. He told me that I had an inner sweetness that is rare in people (I'm not being conceited, he told me this), and that what I do is important. He told me that I am needed here on earth for a long time. Just really nice things to hear, I guess. You go your whole life and want to feel important and needed. It's rare that anyone actually tells you these things. I pulled up to his rest home and dropped him off. He reached for my hand and kissed it (also something my father in law would have done), told me not to worry that it would all be fine. He told me that if I needed anything to call the rest home and that he would pray for me. He then got out of the car and walked into the rest home.
As I was driving up 101 back home a voice in my head whispered "He's not real".  I called the rest home today to ask for him.  I wanted to thank him for the companionship and let him know I got home alright. They've never heard of George...


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It Wasn't My Fault

I know, I know, I typically blog about running but I think that this is important. Today we had a training in Domestic Violence/ Domestic Abuse. Surprisingly, I got through this fine until the end. Well, I shouldn't say surprisingly. Nothing in the training was something I hadn't heard a million times before. However, when someone said something to the effect that only a perpetrator's attorney would treat a victim of abuse like crap. I had to walk out, shut my mouth, and not make a scene. You see, I know better. I've lived it. And, frankly, I'm not done processing it. I function at some level as a mature, responsible, ambitious adult woman. But, one word, one phrase, can still bring back a rush of intrusive memories. Of blood, of bruises, of pain, cell walls, asshole judges, dead  babies, incompetent social workers, and smug faces...

You see, my childhood was complete hell on earth. I was emotionally and physically abused by all of my parents. I say all because I had four major players. When CPS stepped in eventually, I was 14. I was more than capable of understanding what was happening and SHOULD have been a player in the process of placement. I SHOULD have been receiving counseling for what had happened. My concerns about being placed with my father SHOULD have been taken seriously. And, my Guardian Ad Litem (AKA my attorney) SHOULD have actually met with me... say once or twice... before making a recommendation to the courts. Yeah, none of that ever happened. So, here I am already knowing that whatever I do won't be heard or taken seriously. That no one in this mess of people who were deemed to be taking care of me would give a flying fuck. Every time I told of abuse in my father's home it was ignored. Medical neglect? Ignored. Being spit on? Ignored. Beaten with a switch? Ignored. Having my door taken off so I couldn't change my clothing in privacy? Ignored. Educational neglect? Ignored. Requests to be placed with my pastor (who was more of a father to me than mine EVER was) and his wife? Ignored So... why would I trust the people who put us there? Oh right... I wouldn't.

So let's fast forward a year. My mom had jumped through all  her hoops and, honestly, was a lot more emotionally stable than I had ever seen her. We were placed back with her. Meanwhile I was a mess. I sought solace online, in a faceless friend who promised to always be my friend. See where I'm going with this? I was victimized again. Long ass story short, I was kept as a sex slave for several weeks three hours from my home. I... have never spoken publically about this before. Some of my nearest and dearest know. It still brings up feelings of shame, guilt, and anger. I was a weak, naïve 15 year old. I was looking for comfort, a friend, a parental figure of stability. This man lured me from my home and forcibly kept me in his apartment with another woman. I was raped daily. I was made to color my hair. I was tied up, hidden, and threatened.

When the police finally found me, I was scared and broken. Guess what the police did? Put me in handcuffs! Charged ME with being an unruly child for leaving my mom's home. BLAMED ME FOR BEING AN ACCOMPLICE IN MY OWN RAPE!  After the handcuffs, I didn't want to talk to them. I didn't want to give a statement. So I lied. I lied and lied and lied. And I kept lying because I couldn't change my story, you know. They took me to a juvenile detention facility. I then faced the same judge who was the judge in my mom's CPS case. Um.. HELLO! This asshole had just dealt with my mom, knew all of our family dirt and basically called me little more than a slut in court. Ordered me to a detention facility until I could have a psychological eval. Oh, and ordered that I was kept in isolation during that time. 4 cell walls, only allowed out to shower, go to "groups", and the occasional visit from my mom. The staff somewhat took pity on me. It wasn't over with the police. One day, I was interrogated in handcuffs and leg shackles for several hours. Threatened with total isolation if I did not comply, threatened to have my mattress taken out of my cell so that I would have to sit on cold concrete with my thoughts instead of be able to sleep. Threatened with no visits. Threatened with having meals taken away, and  being kept indefinitely in juvenile hall.

When I finally got out, guess what? More blame. By social workers, my parents, my foster mother. I started to believe the things they said. I was a bad girl. So what does my stupid ass do? Try to contact my rapist. I didn't know how to cope. Talking to him was how I had coped before. Even though he hurt me. Even though I was scared of him. I called him anyway. My mom found out and beat the living shit out of me. I was then taken back to juvenile hall, faced the same judge AGAIN, and then... placed on probation and taken to a foster home. A few days later I found out that I was pregnant. I started hemorrhaging badly and my foster mom took me to the hospital. She had the sense enough to tell them I had been raped. Because, honestly, even if it was totally consensual, this man was over 40 years old. I was 15. It was rape. She knew that and was really the only one who had any sense in this whole situation.

The counseling they sent me to was completely ineffective. I didn't want to talk, I didn't want to tell anyone what had happened. It was my fault, I truly believed that. I brought it on myself. The irony of it all is that the book was thrown at my rapist by the judge in his criminal trial. In the juvenile court system, I was told I was old enough to know better. I was held accountable and LEGALLY LIABLE for my actions. Meanwhile, the criminal system (in an opinion from the judge) I had been classified as someone who was too naïve to know what I was doing. How is that possible?! How confusing to a child to be told on one hand it was her fault and the other that she was a victim! Who the hell was in charge here? Who decided that this is how you treat a child who was a victim of domestic and sexual abuse. Seriously... who? Why? How?

It's taken me years to not blame myself. It's taken me years to come to terms with the loss I suffered as a result of the miscarriage. Years to be able to trust anyone and form meaningful friendships and relationships. The internal rage I have felt since then hasn't subsided yet. And now, after 14 years.. that is my story. No, I'm not "over it". I may never be. It doesn't run my life anymore but that period of time is connected to me in a way that is indescribable. A phrase, a thought, a misconception about our justice system. Our justice system is broken. Our misconceptions about victims is detrimental. How can we change this so another child doesn't go through the same things? What stereotypes are YOU willing to give up?