Embrace Your Cross

“Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabbactani
My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”

My God, My God, why did you abandon me?

I gave You everything. No matter how hard everything was.

I gave You my childhood. I gave you the feeling of being invincible that I never got to feel.

I gave You my obedience that destroyed my dreams, and my spirit for years.

I gave you myself, no matter how bad it got, and it got bad.

No matter how much I give, you always ask more.

How could you ask of me my child?

I was faithful.

I was strong.

I followed You.

What could I have done to deserve losing her?

I wrestle with any imperfection in my life before that moment.

Is this why He took her away? Was it this fight? Was it this day of work? Was it the juice I drank? Was it that I wasn’t healthy enough? Is it because I didn’t do something?

What did I do?

I thought I was following You.

What did I do? I never said I was perfect, but what did I do that was so bad that You would give me hopes and dreams I never thought I even had only to destroy them immediately after?

I can’t stand confession now, because I don’t know what my cardinal sin was.

My entire life I was afraid I was evil, and You hated me.

Do you?

Why?

What did I do?

Was it the moment that I was so afraid about the money that for a split second I wanted an abortion? I never meant to think that thought. I never wanted to lose her. I was just scared. I loved her.

Was I not motherly enough? Do I not have what it takes to be a good mother? If that’s why, am I good enough now? Please don’t take away the babies I have now. I love them. Please don’t take them away.

Why would you do this to me?

I was faithful through horrors that only You understand, and You gave me more.

“When will you make it end?”

I keep hearing you say, “when I am finished,” but God, finished with what? Is my suffering not over yet? Do you hate me so much that You created me only to hurt me?

Are some people just meant to be tortured by you, and some are just loved?

Do You know what it took me to stay alive because You said so? Because You would hate me if I didn’t? Do you know what it took me to cause pain to the most important person in my life, because my parents told me to, and you said to obey them? Do you know how much it hurt, and hurts, to have lost the life that I see in others, before mine even began? Do you know how much it hurts to hope when some dreams can never be fulfilled?

How do you even manage to grieve what is lost, when no one would understand?

I lost my wedding to the kindness I thought you asked of me. I lost my dreams to the curse of the ones you gave me. I lost my sense of self over and over and over and over and over to the One you entrusted me to. I lost my hope that You might love me.

I lost my dream of a mother who supports me and my dreams unconditionally because she believes in me and loves me, before I could even dream it. I lost my dream of a father I could trust to hold me when I cried. I lost my dream of even knowing my father at all, and the dream of having a better one too. I lost my dream of someone seeing me in pain and holding me. I even lost my dream of a husband who would hold me when I cried, what a cruel joke that is. He is amazing and healing and emotional, but I have to ask him to hold me when I cry.

I can’t bear this. It’s too much. It hurts too much for the human heart to bear. It is too much loss, too much pain, too much grief, just too much. I can’t breathe when I can feel the loss. The years and years of loss. The knowledge that I am not alone in the loss. I can’t breathe.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” CS Lewis

I had locked it up, God. You know how completely I had shut myself off.

I asked you for this. I asked you to heal my “dry bones.”

Don’t stop. Make me feel again. Make me ME again. Don’t let me close up again, I can feel my body trying to. I keep catching myself holding my breath and thrusting my tongue into the roof of my mouth to block whatever is happening in me. My body is terrified. My heart cries out to you, Oh God. Oh God, Oh God, why have you abandoned me? Oh God, Oh God, why have you abandoned me? Oh God, Oh God, why have you abandoned me?

The fear might be the worst part for me.

The fear that since You have done it before, You will do it again.

Mother Teresa felt abandoned by You for FIFTY years. How could you?

Would you do that to me?

If You did that to her, would you do that to me?

Would you abandon me for that long?

When you protect me, I am afraid You will stop, because You stopped.

When you lead me, I am afraid there is only worse pain ahead.

Miscarriage taught me how little I know of pain.

Childbirth taught me it can get even worse. Childbirth taught me pain can get so bad, that you think you are going to die, and you really don’t care anymore. It would be better than living this moment.

Motherhood has taught me to scream.

I am losing my joy to my attempts not to feel.

I am losing my joy to every moment I hold my breath so I can’t feel the hurt.

I am losing my joy to every moment I am so consumed by despair that I can’t convince myself to try anymore.

I am losing my joy to everything I already lost, and my fear of what I am going to lose.

 

“There are things we can do
But from the things that work there are only two
And from the two that we choose to do
Peace will win and fear will lose
It is faith and there’s sleep
We need to pick one please because
Faith is to be awake
And to be awake is for us to think
And for us to think is to be alive
And I will try with every rhyme
To come across like I am dying
To let you know you need to try to think”

God, it hurts so much to think. It hurts so much to be as me. I want to be me.

Redeem me here. Redeem me in the pain that goes so deep it never ends. Redeem me in this fear that You are not for me, You are against me.

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”

But if God is against us?

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The Power of Unity: a review of Grey’s Anatomy on Abuse(TRIGGER WARNING EXPLICIT CONTENT AND SPOILERS)

Tonight, on Grey’s Anatomy, I witnessed, in my opinion, one of the most powerful moments of television in all of history. It may get missed, because we are in season eleventy hundred at this point, but it shouldn’t. It was an episode about abuse and assault, and there a million things to talk about about how masterful everyone involved was. The pivotal moment of the episode was a message of unity, a message to every single survivor of every single kind of suffering or trauma. “You are not alone.”

The episode begins with Meredith’s traditional monologue, this time about trauma, and how it can hide in the most banal moments of existence. Just as a memory of home can appear as quick as the wafting smell of apple pie, a flash of light at the wrong angle can send a person back to the moment they were dead, or wished they were. Immediately, Grey’s is letting us know that the episode may be about one kind of trauma, as we all know from the trailers and warnings, but it’s also about every kind.

Next, we see Jo in her aftermath of whatever she discovered with her birthmother, though we haven’t been clued in yet. She finds a woman who is clearly experiencing severe suffering, and helps her to the ER. This was the first life-changing moment of the episode. Jo looks in the woman’s eyes, and instead of telling her where the emergency room is, she drops everything, all of her own struggles, the busy-ness she is using to escape, and her work for the day, to help this woman to get to where she needed to go, and to keep her safe.

The story unfolds alongside the story of Jo’s discussion with her birth mother. Jo is angry at her mother because of the scars she has from feeling abandoned and unloved. Her mother is scarred in different ways but is just as strong, and just as wounded. She confesses to Jo that she was raped, and that Jo resulted from that rape. Jo fights back with the wounds that she has, trying to forge some sort of connection, but also clearly struggling with the tension of realizing that her suffering was not the whole story.

Whether you believe in abortion or not, the next conversation they have is a gut-wrenching one. She admits that when she saw Jo she fell head over heels in love with her, but that she couldn’t stop seeing her aggressors face whenever she saw Jo. She tells Jo she didn’t have her best to give when she abandoned her at a fire station. Jo responds by telling her that she had an abortion when she got pregnant by her abuser.

It is an uncomfortable moment. Jo’s mother looks away. The set-up of the conversation is all to real, in its awkwardness. There was a moment that all I could ask was, “Is she angry that her mother didn’t abort her?” There was a sense that Jo did think she should have, and the mother’s reaction was immediate and intense, but vague. Shonda Rhimes’ shows are consistent about this when dealing with abortion, she is very conscious of the differing opinions and the pain associated with it on either side, and in true Shonda form, they allow the uncomfortable moment to exist without answering the questions it brings up or tying it up with a neat little bow. It seems to me that the most important part of it was the divide between the two of them.

Meanwhile, Jo’s patient has been revealed to be a survivor of a sexual assault. She is covered with raw, realistic wounds, rivaling any film depiction I have ever seen. The aggressor himself is not given a single moment of screen time. That is reserved for the woman herself alone. Grey’s breaks the cardinal rule of film/tv,”Show don’t tell,” but in this instance, abuse/assault is all too often used for shock factor or to up the ratings, and I believe that they intentionally refused to indulge that.

Jo encourages the woman to do the rape kit, in a way that taught me things I didn’t know about rape kits. In the person of her character, Camilla Luddington told every survivor of every abuser ever, “You can fight this, and it is not your fault.” The way she said, “You did nothing to deserve this,” is still ringing in my chest, holding up a mirror to every time I blamed myself for every thing bad that ever happened.

“You did nothing to deserve this.”

Finally, it is time for her patient to go to surgery, but she is terrified to see the faces of the men who could be around her on the way. In a perspective altering, powerful moment, they reveal that they have asked every woman who worked in the hospital to line the halls so that she will see only their faces.

Now, I’m going to take a little detour here for a second because I can already here all the defenders of men pissed off because all men are not abusers. That’s not the point. As Meredith’s monologue said at the beginning, anything can set off trauma. The point is that this is what she was struggling with, no whether or not it was right or in her head, or whatever else. It was her struggle, and because it was her struggle, it was worth protecting her from it, while she was in a vulnerable state. I’m going to resist the temptation to go off about the “snowflake” mentality and people who complain about them, so I stay focused but that rant may come one day.

In that moment, when the women’s faces lined the halls, I felt the world move. Shonda Rhimes and the team that she assembled had just brought a new light into the world. In that moment, the entire team of Greys Anatomy told every single one of us, “You are not alone.” They also told, specifically those who have suffered any kind of assault or abuse, but especially sexual assault, “We see you, you matter. You are not alone.”

In this pivotal moment, Shondaland did what makes them great. They answered the pain in the world with hope, not a hope that is shallow and false, but a sure resounding hope in the power of the human spirit and community with others. They gave us the language to heal, and an example.

The episode doesn’t conclude with a pretty pink bow of how we are all happy now because we are not alone, but it does end with one character giving her honesty to her husband and another, not. Jo is not ready to talk to Alex and the pain in her is palpable, but while she is in pain and feels alone, she has given her patient the gift of not feeling alone. It’s a tragic truth that often the one who creates love and hope for others struggles to find it for themselves. I hope that we will see Jo heal, but it shouldn’t be surprising that she needs to.

I am an undying fan girl of Shonda Rhimes and what she has created in Grey’s Anatomy.moments like this are what make her the Mistress of Television in my opinion. She has healed broken spots in my soul more times that I can count, and I pray that she has millions more to come, and that in my own film career I will touch people half as well as she does.

Ash Wednesday:What Religious Abuse looks like Ten Years Later

I hate going back to what happened to make me struggle with things. Those of you who know me are probably rolling your eyes. I don’t blame you, because no matter how much I don’t want to talk about it, I do it often. Im still trying to figure out how to exist in a world that seems easier to other people than it is to to me, and I am a little slow on the uptake. Today’s deep dive into The History of Things That Make My Life Complicated, is a kind of abuse that sparked anxiety in me that I have not heard many talk about. That is, religious abuse.

So first of all, let’s talk about what I mean when I say religious abuse. There are a million different definitions for each type of abuse and this is no exception. My definition of religious abuse is anytime religion is used as a weapon, especially to manipulate the person. To clarify, I do think it can be done unintentionally, which I believe about other kinds of abuse as well, and I’ve written about that in the past, but the effect of the abuse stays the same the either way.

I don’t want to get into the exact specifics of what kind of religious abuse I experienced right now. What I do want to talk about is why it matters at all. Traditionally, it seems that a majority of people psychologically associate God with the authority figures who are meant to teach them about Him. What this means is that one’s parents, priest, nuns, Catholic school teachers, are all representatives of God, so psychologically we believe that God holds those traits. The problem with this is that when the representative of God is abusive, the victim starts to believe that God also is abusive, even if they wouldn’t phrase it that way.

In my experience, the most problematic issue that stems from this is a paralyzing confusion about who God is that leads to an inability to pursue a relationship with Him without intense self-examination and careful processing of the past. For example, if something in my life goes wrong, or might go wrong, I have a deep inner conviction that God is punishing me for something, and I have to work incredibly hard through prayer and self-analysis to convince myself that that is not what is happening. If someone mentions evil people, I am immediately sure that I am evil, and I have to re-process the conversation in my head and, so to speak, talk myself down off the ledge. If I miss a prayer for one day, then I become terrified that the entire day is going to go badly and I am going to die so that God can send me to Hell. Sometimes, if I am trying to decide whether or not to do something, my fear about what God does or does not want me to do is so paralyzing that I do nothing out of fear, or worse sometimes I end up choosing whichever option does NOT make me happy, just to be on the safe side.

This was much worse when I had no idea it was going on, and I have seen it in other people who eventually figure out why they are struggling with particular issues. It caused me to ruin chances I had of doing things I really loved, out of fear that God wouldn’t love me anymore if I did them. It caused me to not try to fulfill my dreams because God didn’t want me to have them. It caused me to stop doing things that bring me joy because it seemed like God was angry every time I did something that made me happy. It made me hate life because every single thing I did was so important because I was so afraid of Hell.

The interesting thing about this topic coming up around Lent for me, is that Lent was the focal point of some severe fear and trauma for me. I will never forget the year I was convinced the world was ending because JPII and Terri Schiavo died right before Easter. I will never forget my absolute panic on the way to Good Friday service because I thought that the whole world was going to go dark for Three Days of Darkness and we were going to go to Hell because we were not at home.

I am terrified of lent.

Every year I become convinced that God will rain every kind of suffering He can imagine down on me because “It’s that time of year,” but you know what? The last several years, I asked Him to show me who He was for Lent. He has rained graces down on me that I never could have imagined.

In 2017, I was convinced that my pregnancy was going to end in a still birth or miscarriage and I would maybe die, or if the baby made it, I would die and never get to hold her, because she was due in lent. The night of Ash Wednesday my terrifying pre-term labor got so bad, I really thought I was going to die, but instead I gave birth to an insanely healthy 31-week old baby. She needed some assistance, but nothing like what anyone had expected. She was a total spitfire, bit the doctor on her way into the world, and ripped out her oxygen tube because she didn’t need it anymore. My nurses were so kind to me, the priest who visited me revolutionized my faith life, my body recovered so rapidly that everyone was beyond shocked. I was tired, like anyone would be, but I was the happiest I had ever been. Later in lent, I lost my job, and it was the answer to almost a year f begging God to find me a way to be a stay at home mom. God heard my prayers-big, scary, terrifying, barely even hopeful prayers. I still can’t fathom sometimes how completely He heard me.

Last year was a little less spectacular, but still just as important. He gave me rest from anxiety during my pregnancy so much so that for a few weeks my hyperemesis gravidarum was almost imperceptible. I stayed pregnant until 40 weeks(past Easter this time) and she was perfect.

This year, I got cocky. I thought, oh I’ll do Lent the way everyone else does. God made it very clear to me, “Oh honey, you are not ready for that, I need to hold you for a little bit,” with me in tears on Fat Tuesday. So this year, I’m going to be little again, I’m going to ask God to show me who He is again, because I keep forgetting and doubting Him. But the nice thing is, it was His idea. 😉 So if you think you might need to, this lent, give up your pride. Ask God to take care of you, and show you what you need. He is so much more than we give Him credit for.

One Shriek Too Far

She walked out. It was the most frightening moment of her life. She was afraid, truly and deeply afraid. For the first time in her life, her mother had pushed her one shriek too far. That moment when she felt like everything in her had died she decided, this would never happen again. She shook uncontrollably as she attempted to pack only her most important belongings, in the process defining her identity. A brush? No, everyone has brushes. The Bling Ring? Yes, can’t forget the first gift ever given to her by her film-loving fiancé. This shirt that she bought with the last of her paycheck a few weeks ago? No, she only wears that sometimes. The leather bound gold leaf edition of Brothers Karamazov that decorates her nightstand. Bridal book? No, if there was an emergency she could always get another one. She trembled as she pushed the last bit of junk into her purse, whatever could fit into what looked like just one day’s worth of goodies, maybe then they wouldn’t suspect anything. She made her way out of the house, quietly closed the door, and was finally able to breathe enough to scream.

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