But early yesterday morning, I paused. I had read a story the day before about how two men raped a local woman in broad daylight beneath the pier at Boulevard Park. Additionally, the Rapist Brock Turner was still fresh in my mind, as I had been reading everything I could about the case and had been busy posting and re-posting his face on my Facebook wall, making sure to emphasize his new status, "Rapist," and not the "Stanford Swimmer" title I had seen bandied about in different stories.
When I am dwelling in my fear-based world, once you have raped a woman or abused or otherwise exploited a man, woman, or child, that is your title until the day you die. Nothing you did before or after you committed that horrible act matters.
So there I was, laying? lying? in bed listening to the birds singing, and for the first time in a very long time, I was afraid. I have traveled across the country alone, gone on hundreds of on-line dates with strangers (yes, hundreds), gone to movies alone, gone out to eat alone, and hiked alone, and always with a heightened awareness one must take on in these types of situations, but not really with any fear. Many times I have been asked the same question by a wide variety of people about all these things I do, "aren't you afraid?" and always, the answer is a simple, "no," because, generally speaking, I work diligently to not alter my behavior due to the dangerous/destructive/disrespectful/insensitive actions of others. If I do that, they win. They have me. And I won't be had.
Especially not by such bastards.
But holy fuck, I kept thinking about the description the victim gave of waking up in the hospital, wanting to disown her own body, and the horror she felt at being violated by the interrogation after she had been violated by The Rapist Brock Turner. I kept thinking about the announcement I saw on Facebook about the local woman who was raped in broad daylight, and I could feel the fear start to creep up my spine, flood my chest and crawl into my sensitive brain.
So I started to argue against this fear; I began to rally in favor of the courage I knew I had deep inside of me. I told myself that if you look hard enough, you can find something to scare you or keep you from living your life fully. You can find someone who might be a threat to you if you really search. You can find a reason to keep yourself from really experiencing the world in all its incredibly glory. You can always find something.
And, I reasoned, you can always create strategies to overcome these fears. You can always find ways to feel safer. You can always make a plan to keep yourself protected, even as you venture out the door unaccompanied by someone who is bigger, stronger and more intimidating than you are. You can always find something. And you can always find role models. Usually, I look to Willy Wonka, Mary Poppins or Buddy the Elf, but in this case, I looked to my man Bilbo Baggins. If a Hobbit can do all the shit he did, being as small and simple as he was, well....I mean....
So I went. I hopped out of bed, got on my hiking clothes, and as a safety precaution, let my fella know where I was going. I also had another friend in town who knew, and as I hiked up, I posted pics on Facebook and sent pics to my fella. I felt strong, and more importantly, I felt free. The trail was just like I like it; empty except for the birds and other critters busy doing their critter stuff in the early morning hours. When I reached the top, I was greeted by two women who had just reached the top themselves. We talked about the possibility of a night hike sometime to witness a full moon. The air was chilly, and the Ravens were flying so close, I could hear their wings in the wind. It was truly a beautiful morning to experience so high up.
As I was walking down, about one quarter of the way and still in the densely wooded section of the trail, I heard the loud pecking of two Pileated Woodpeckers, and the chirping of their baby birds in a nest nearby. I spotted the nest and could tell that these cute little things were not yet ready to leave. They were still relying on their parents to feed them, which I figured was why they were making such a ruckus with all their pecking.
I stopped and wondered at what all this meant; the baby birds, well-cared for in their nest, the night hike I was considering in my future, and the idea that not two hours prior, I was on the cusp of missing all this. I could not think for the life of me why I would want to limit my experience of life because of the horrifying current events that had been filling my Facebook feed, and knew how profoundly the victim's lives would be irreversably altered; that they would most likely have a long and painful journey back to themselves, if they ever made it.
It was a lot to think about, as I stood there in the woods, alone but for the critters, and chilled in the morning air. So I moved on, and continued my hike down. I felt lucky that I had never been raped, and still wondered what exactly I could do about keeping that from happening to anyone ever again. What could I do to change the world so no man, woman or child has to be afraid to leave their home alone? What could I do to stop the abuse and exploitation of men, women and children all over the world?
I admit, it is a lot to take on. I don't really know what to do except what I am doing, trying to teach and inspire self love, and maybe show that in the end, it is about the journey to self love, the exploration of the self that can save.
The pain I feel when I think about this shit is overwhelming. The helplessness I feel is palpable. But this is what keeps me going; that I might in some way be able to help someone going through this, that adding my voice to the chorus of people all over the world who abso-fucking-lutely will not stand for this will in some way bring comfort, that is why I do it. I know what it means to need help, to need support. I also know how wonderfully life-changing it is to receive that support.
I have known rapists, sexual abusers and other people I would label as violent. Without exception, they had all in one way or another been abused themselves. This is not a secret, this is a statistic. It is fact. So why? Why have we not prioritized people? Rape, violence, and expoitation are all learned behaviors. It is time we start learning new ones. It is time to stop supporting the culture that allows this. It is time to stop seeing the people who do this shit as bad people and start seeing them as damaged people.
It is time to start taking care of people. Rape, theft, and addiction are all symptoms of a society that does not prioritize its people. They are symptoms of a society that prioritizes power, wealth and control. It is time to create a new paradigm in this country and figure out a way to take care of people.
Just like it is my priority and my biggest focus to love and care for myself, it should be this society's biggest priority to love and care for its people. Right now, it is a society divided. It is a society so bound up in unnamable fear, we are easily manipulated into hating each other; easily manipulated into believing that people different than us in any way are the devils responsible.
But that can change. We can see beyond that facade and start caring for ourselves and each other. We can start believing in ourselves and each other. It just takes a little faith. It takes a desire to be more than we have been allowed to be. It takes a willingness to risk.
I am willing.
How about you?