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Love

I’ve been casually rereading The Princess Bride and ran across this again. I can’t imagine ever being able to say it any more poetically.

“I love you,’ Buttercup said. ‘I know this must come as something of a surprise to you, since all I’ve ever done is scorn you and degrade you and taunt you, but I have loved you for several hours now, and every second, more. I thought an hour ago that I loved you more than any woman has ever loved a man, but a half hour after that I knew that what I felt before was nothing compared to what I felt then. But ten minutes after that, I understood that my previous love was a puddle compared to the high seas before a storm. Your eyes are like that, did you know? Well they are. How many minutes ago was I? Twenty? Had I brought my feelings up to then? It doesn’t matter.’ Buttercup still could not look at him. The sun was rising behind her now; she could feel the heat on her back, and it gave her courage. ‘I love you so much more now than twenty minutes ago that there cannot be comparison. I love you so much more now then when you opened your hovel door, there cannot be comparison. There is no room in my body for anything but you. My arms love you, my ears adore you, my knees shake with blind affection. My mind begs you to ask it something so it can obey. Do you want me to follow you for the rest of your days? I will do that. Do you want me to crawl? I will crawl. I will be quiet for you or sing for you, or if you are hungry, let me bring you food, or if you have thirst and nothing will quench it but Arabian wine, I will go to Araby, even though it is across the world, and bring a bottle back for your lunch. Anything there is that I can do for you, I will do for you; anything there is that I cannot do, I will learn to do. I know I cannot compete with the Countess in skills or wisdom or appeal, and I saw the way she looked at you. And I saw the way you looked at her. But remember, please, that she is old and has other interests, while I am seventeen and for me there is only you. Dearest Westley–I’ve never called you that before, have I?–Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley,–darling Westley, adored Westley, sweet perfect Westley, whisper that I have a chance to win your love.’ And with that, she dared the bravest thing she’d ever done; she looked right into his eyes.”

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Score for Humantiy

To the asshole that saw me drop my iPod today,

My best friend came looking for it 10 minutes later. Thankfully, you’d already scooped it up. You must be smarter than the average person I see rummaging through garbage cans, because you’d managed to complete a factory reset on it and make it your own by the time I got home from work. Thanks for stealing all my music, you giant sack of rotting horse shit. I guess returning things to their owner just proves to be too difficult for most.

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Speaking Out

I don’t know how else to beg, except to plead with you to share this post. After Audrie Pott’s suicide began making the rounds today, I found myself in an increasingly despondent state, wondering how we can stop this from happening to anybody else. The first step is speaking out.

Stubenville. The War on Women. Audrie Pott. Penn State

In the last year, these things have been discussed to death, resurrected and put to death again. I’ve even written this post 30+ times in the interests of debating its effectiveness, but after reading about Audrie tonight, my heart is shattered. Her life was not over and neither is mine. None of the discussions we currently participate in are going to do any good until victims of sexual assault feel free to come forward and recognize that they are so much more than this moment.

Recently, I’ve been brutally honest with myself, thinking about my own hesitation to come forward, and what kind of limitations I’ve placed on my healing by refusing to outwardly acknowledge the impact of sexual assault on my life. I stand up for equal rights, for animals, against breast cancer…I even stand up for the Dallas Cowboys year after heartbreaking year, but April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I want to stand up for myself and other victims of rape and abuse. I want to empower other men and women to come forward with their stories without feeling guilt and embarrassment. What you’re about to read is how I’m starting to do just that.

Rape. I can talk about it and lately it seems like everybody is. Until the last whisper of air is forced from my lungs, I will take up for victims, preach to them the importance of speaking out, and remind people that the fault lies with no one other than the perpetrator. However, what I haven’t been able to do until now is talk about my experience without feeling shame. I know what you’re thinking, “Rape? It wasn’t your fault.” And while I understand that it wasn’t my fault, I also know there’s a certain shame that accompanies feeling like I have to share my story in dark corners with hushed whispers. It doesn’t make talking about it any easier. Not because I think it was my fault, but because talking about it openly sometimes feels like the most isolating and horrifying thing I can do. To talk about it honestly means that I would have to open myself up to criticism, judgment, and admit something that has only passed my lips a handful of times in my life. I’m not ok.

If you’re reading this and we’re friends, you might have heard me mention it. There might have been a quiet moment when I spoke of it in passing. I might have admitted the same thing happened to me after you shared your story or maybe there was a night that we sat at the bar, had a few drinks, and the rum gave me hope that you wouldn’t judge me for it in the morning. In any case, I can almost guarantee what I said as soon as you told me how sorry you were. I told you that I was fine and that I’d been through a lot of therapy. Those were both lies. I haven’t been fine in years and although I went to therapy, I wouldn’t really say I went through it. I lied and told my therapist everything was fine, too. Enduring sexual abuse has taught me to play things close to the vest, so you shouldn’t feel slighted by my omission. I went to therapy and hid everything behind my wit, sarcasm, and self-deprecating humor; my specialties. I tried in vain to make myself out to be some kind of emotional superhero, who had magically been able to navigate the waters of recovery with deep thought and a couple of Dr. Phil books. In short, I was in denial.

I was so committed to the appearance of recovery that I even convinced myself I was ok, however, there have been tell-tale signs that I was, in fact, not. After a fairly abusive relationship and a string of bad decisions, I quit dating. I knew something was wrong with my ability to choose a suitable partner and, frankly, I hadn’t seen myself as worthy of anybody in a long time. I still find it nearly impossible to connect with anybody on an emotional level and I have a startle reflex that fills me with such violent anger that I nearly decked my eight year old nephew after he snuck up behind me in the kitchen one night. None of these are life skills I’m hoping to hang on to.

Some people will say the internet isn’t the forum to air things like this, but honestly, until you’re the one living with the aftermath of sexual assault, you’ll never understand how deafening the silence is. I’m not saying any of this for pity. I’m saying it because I’m finally tired of watching survivors carry the burden alone. Why should we? If we had been burglarized, mugged or punched in a bar, would we fear being blamed for the crime? Would we be afraid to talk about the scars we were learning to live with? We are not the ones that should feel shame or humiliation and this is not the end as we know it. I want to be open about what happened to me and encourage other people to be open about their experiences. I want to promote a world where people can come forward and get the help I wish I’d gotten for myself in the beginning. I’m not alone in this. None of us are. I spent a lot of time thinking about this the wrong way, but now I understand that talking about sexual assault isn’t going to isolate anyone. By encouraging others to speak out, it’s going to free us to heal others and allow ourselves to be healed.

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“You can talk a…

“You can talk about how much you wish things were different, or you can get off your ass and use your exercise clothes for something besides lounge wear.”

The things I tell myself to inspire exercise.

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Dear Cancer

Dear Cancer,

Six years ago, I was in a relationship the worst human being on earth. We’ll call him Clint. I am firmly convinced the only reason he doesn’t have a website dedicated to warning the world of his psychopathy is because people are afraid to mention his name after they finally excise him from their life…like Voldemort. He was emotionally abusive and left a shell of me in ruins. He was, by far, one of the worst things to ever happen to me in life.

There are two people that I credit with pulling me from the rubble. One of them is Diana. In the years since I met her, through Clint ironically, she has become a sister to me. She was the one glaring silver lining that I got out of my time with him and for that I am eternally grateful.

I love her so much I escorted all three of her girls (3yrs, 4yrs and 6yrs at the time) to DisneyWorld on my own so she could have a morning to chill out after being trapped with them for a week. That is hardcore devotion.

Today Diana was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am 1,000 miles away and can’t get to one of the people I would kill for without asking any questions. I want to hug her. I want to hug the girls. I want to be able to tell her that everything is going to be ok. I want to reassure her. I want to reassure myself.

I’m trying not to worry. She’s young. I’m sure they caught it early and breast cancer treatment has great success. These are the things I’m trying to focus on. I’m trying not to cry. I’m trying to push the fear from my mind. I’m trying…

So you see, Cancer, you can’t have this one. We’ve never formally met, but I can assure you I am every bit as stubborn as she is and I will help her fight you every step of the way.

Sincerely,

Lesley

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Conversations with Friends

This is a conversation I just had.

Me: I don’t care if he pushes me against a wall and invokes the spirit of Hemingway, himself. I’m not sleeping with him.

Friend: Hemingway? I would think Henry James would be better.

Me: Henry James was gay.

Friend: The Tropic of Cancer guy?

Me: You mean Henry Miller.

Friend: Oh yeah.

This is also one of the many reasons I’m single.

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Big Girls Don’t Cry

When I was 10 I had a boyfriend named Zack. He was my boyfriend for two days.

It was a thrilling proposal. I think my friend Jennifer was more excited that me about the prospect of us “going together” and it was the equivalent of an arranged marriage in my world. Jennifer asked him if he wanted to go out with me, then turned and asked me if I wanted to go with him and…POOF! I had a boyfriend. To celebrate a bunch of us kids went to play in the creek that ran behind our suburban Austin homes. That’s  when I sliced my foot open on a rock. I didn’t cry in spite of the pain, but I also wouldn’t let Zack comfort me.

I begged some of the other kids to go get my mom and eventually she appeared, pulled me from the large stone I had perched on in the middle of the creek and helped me hobble to the car.

I never talked to Zack again and we moved to Nashville two days later. (Zack, if you’re reading this, you should know I’ve moved on and you should, too.)

It occurred to me that I did the same thing today, 23 years later. Only this time, when I need my mom, she’s not really thrilled to find out I’m in a bind. In fact today was the first time I’ve talked to her in the eight days since I totaled my car. I was with a friend when she called me this afternoon and as I hung up the phone I fought back the well of tears struggling to surface in my eyes and shrugged off the comfort offered from someone who was trying to help. I’m in this one alone, but what bothers me more is that there’s nobody around I can even cry to.

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Jumping

The only way you’re ever going to know if you’re any good at something is to do it and do it with everything you have.

I don’t want to devote the same time and energy to writing that I would to making a Mosaic tile table top, a weekend here and there until it’s ready to show off to the world. I’m never going to become a remarkable tile artist, but I know I’m a fantastic writer when something inspires me.

My computer has been down for a week and I’ve been half crazy being kept away from these people I’ve been writing the last few months. However, I have managed to flush out another idea in the meantime, but this isn’t going to be a DIY side project this time. This time, I’m jumping.

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You Can Only Avoid It For So Long

I’m visiting my mother this weekend and from the instant I woke up this morning, my eyes have been searing. I shouldn’t have slept in my contacts, but I do that a lot. With every blink of my eyelids, I felt fire. I couldn’t figure out what I had done to make my retinas hate me until I glanced at my mom’s computer screen and saw her picture. Then the memory of last night came flooding back to me.

The rest of the house was asleep when, on my way to bed, my mom’s computer screen lit up illuminating the picture of Holly on her desktop. We put Holly down January 27 and I miss her more than I ever thought possible for a dog. She was with our family for 12 years, but two years ago she became my constant companion after an altercation with another dog got her kicked out of my parents’ high rise.

She went absolutely everywhere with me. To work, the grocery store, road trips…other than going out with my friends, she was almost always with me. If I wanted to lay in bed until noon, so did she. If I wanted to sit on the couch and watch movies, she would, too. She’d even mastered the art of eating the chicken from my not-spicy pad thai from the chopsticks. She wouldn’t have left my side willingly for a box of live rabbits. Holly was, by far, the most loving and affectionate animal I’ve ever encountered in my life and not a day goes by that I don’t long for one of her hugs or wake up wishing I could see her nose sticking out from under the blankets.

She had a personality unlike any other pet I’ve ever had. She wasn’t a people person and she wasn’t a dog person, either. She was smart, neurotic and ridiculously loyal. She’d never have backed down from a threat, but if I walked her into a peaceful crowd, she’d be clawing at my knees to pick her up.

I have a hard time expressing emotions that I think exhibit weakness in myself. Sorrow is one of those. However, last night in the quiet of my mother’s home, I laid down and sobbed until I couldn’t breathe. I cried myself to sleep like child and hoped that in the stillness of the night I might see her in my dreams.

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The Talk

I don’t ever plan on having children and I was 10 years old when I made the announcement to my mother. Obviously, she believed I would change my mind, but my choice was only reinforced when she had my youngest brother as I was nearing my 15th birthday. I saw what babies were really like when they weren’t trying to be cute and lure you into the never-ending and thankless job of raising them. No thanks.

(For the record, I would have been a horrible mom. Two of my three brothers ended up drunk on my watch at the age of 15 during wedding receptions for other siblings. Also, I am completely lacking any ability to sugarcoat answers to life altering questions from children.)

That being said, the closest thing to raising a child that I will ever experience is that very baby, who is now about to graduate high school. The downside to this is that he won’t be saddled with “mom guilt” when I’m old and he’ll probably pick out a crappy nursing home for me. However, bonuses include not having to pay for his college education and still being around for hilarious milestones like the dreaded sex talk.

Everybody remembers the horror of the birds and the bees discussion with their parents for one of two reasons. You were either horrified because your parent was a little late to the game and you already understood the process (yet they insisted on a lengthy discussion, complete with drawings that resembled the head of a cow), or, like my baby brother, you were traumatized because the information came completely out of left field, all because you had the misfortune of asking a seemingly innocent question.

Bo and I have always been close. To this day, when visiting my mother, I will regularly fall asleep in his bed while we watch Saturday Night Live and I don’t even care if it annoys him. How else are we supposed to share every single ridiculous thing we’ve ever seen on the YouTube with each other.

One night, at the tender age of eight, Bo approached me as I sat surfing the internet.

“Yeh-yeh,” he said, snagging my attention away from the computer. “I need to ask you something.”

Most eight year olds will fire questions at you until you’re ready to commit yourself to an asylum, but the seriousness of Bo’s face let me know I was in for a treat and I was all ears.

“Shoot,” I said.

“What’s a ‘codom’?” (Pronounced like Odom)

“A what,” I asked. I was pretty sure it wasn’t even a real word and had no idea where he’d picked it up.

“You know, a codom.” I’ve always loved it when people just repeat their question and stare, as if some fresh knowledge will be dropped on you by the sheer magnitude of their desire for you to know what they’re talking about.

“No, I don’t know. Where did you hear it?”

“At Mary-Kate’s house. There are commercials for them on MTV.”

MTV. Suddenly, it all made sense. MTV didn’t care if eight year olds were watching Trojan commercials at four in the afternoon. They were too busy marketing to 16 year olds and trying to keep teen pregnancy down (until they realized they could cash in on that, too).

“Oh, you mean a condom.”

“Yeah, what’s a condom,” he asked.

I could have easily explained what a condom was, but given that he was blissfully unaware of sex and childbirth, it seemed that my explanation might go a little farther than my mom would have deemed necessary.

“Hang on, let me go get your mother,” I replied to him.

After wandering through the house I found our mother, peacefully watching TV.

“Mom, your eight year old son just asked me what a condom is. I don’t really think you want me to answer him.”

“What? Where did he hear that?” Her evening had just been shattered, as I’m pretty sure she wasn’t planning on having this conversation for a few more years.

“MTV. You can thank them later, but now you get to give the sex talk.” I may or may not have jumped slightly in the air and clapped my hands in excitement.

Bo sat waiting for us, all too aware that something horrible was looming on the horizon.

“Ok, kiddo. This is something Mom needs to explain to you.”

The look of fear found its way to his face and he looked at me pleadingly, before demanding that I remain in attendance for whatever was about to happen.

Mom effortlessly explained that condoms are something people use when they don’t want to have babies. The tricky part is explaining how they work to an eight year old. She resorted to the tried and true “when a man and woman love each other and want to have babies” bit. He really seemed to take it in stride, until she mentioned that sometimes people didn’t want to have anymore babies and they used various methods of birth control when they have the S-E-X. This was the moment that lives on in my memory as one of the most hilarious of his childhood.

Bo’s face fell and he looked positively horrified. “You mean they have to do it more than ONCE?”

For whatever reason, my mother’s explanation had given him the impression that you only HAD to have sex once and you could have all the babies you wanted. Sex was ugly price you had to pay for the joy of raising children, which in reality is completely backward.

A couple of years later I was driving him home from school one afternoon and, again, he let me know he needed to ask me something of importance. This time, however, we were alone in the car and I had no choice but to answer him. How much worse could it be than having to explain sex?

“What’s a whore,” he asked. I could tell he knew it was bad, but he wasn’t sure where on the Richter scale of foul language it fell.

“First, where did you hear it?”

“On the playground.” This is what expensive private schools get you, biblical curse words.

I reminded myself that this conversation might have a lasting impact on him and tried to choose my words carefully.

“A whore is a prostitute, somebody that has sex in exchange for money,” I explained. I wanted to give him the Mirriam-Webster definition. He’d be able to look things up on Urban-Dictionary on his own in a few years.

“You mean, like in Africa,” he asked.

“Or on Dickerson Road,” I replied.

“Doesn’t it kill them?” He was horrified that somebody would take part in a seemingly tortuous activity that could also end your life.

Now, I don’t like to laugh at kids when they ask questions or go through their awkward phases, because that stuff sticks with them for years and I don’t’ ever want to be on the other end of a lawsuit wherein somebody is suing me for all the money they’ve spent on therapy. However, this time I couldn’t help myself. Not that I was laughing at him, but I was laughing because I couldn’t imagine how my mother’s in-depth discussion left him with the impression that sex equals death.

“Bo, what exactly is it about your understanding of sex that makes you think it kills people?”

“Like, they get diseases.” At least this made sense. And it meant he had a better understanding than that which I had given him credit for.

“Right. And there are a lot of women in Africa who have AIDS and other diseases, but a lot of those women aren’t prostitutes. That’s a different scenario.” I left it at that, not wanting to get into the magnitude of crimes against women in Africa.

“OK,” he answered.

“OK, but just to make sure, you understand that sex doesn’t kill people, diseases do, right?”

He nodded his head and I was elated. I didn’t really have to go over the exam questions from my mother’s earlier discussion. Also, I was fairly confident he wound’t be the kid in middle school everybody laughed at because he had announced to everybody that sex kills you. We could leave that experience to one of his Church of Christ counterparts.

Hopefully, that was to be my only foray into the world of awkward questions for parents. I think I’d rather be the one who explains hangover recovery, tailgating and why you should never, ever watch Jersey Shore.

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