a little of each…
Victim, I am a victim, I was a victim. Like many words it starts sounding funny when you say it enough… Victim.
On Sunday (not this past Sunday but a Sunday last summer) I had ran about 9 miles on “The Greenbelt” a trail in Austin that goes along Barton Creek. Sometimes the creek even has water in it. On this particular Sunday the water was cool and cascading over the rocky creek bed as I ran along. My intent was to go about 4 miles but it was a beautiful day and I was pausing to jump into the catch pools along the way. Plus the rocky trail kept my progress slow so 9 miles wasn’t really that much.
I find that running clears my head, but I have so much junk up in my head sometimes that 9 miles won’t do it, not even 19 or 90. This was one of those days. My thoughts were traveling back 35 years to something that happened to me, something I still feel like I let happen, or even somehow encouraged. The run was amazing though and my thoughts were at least buried for a time. The next Monday morning in the gym I was still in this purgatory of pensiveness with my dark thoughts thinly covered with the memories of my nature run while I added weight to the bar for my squats. (bar on shoulders, bend at knees and waist to lower the weight until your knees make a 90 degree angle without going forward over your toes). My thoughts shifted to my coping skills, my need for attention and the things I would do to get cheap attention…. I kept adding weight.
I got under the bar, started lowering, and got to the point where it was time to lift…. OOOooops, something wrong, can’t lift it… duck, under, saved by crash bars to a loud and attention getting clang. I got out from under and looked at the bar, I had put on 90 more lbs than I could safely (or unsafely) lift. Deep in my thoughts of guilt and shame, while participating in one of the exact methods I use to squash the guilt and shame I had overdone it. Pride made me continue the workout, (everybody was looking at me after the crash so obviously…) I took off the extra 90, and even some more because my confidence was shot, and finished my squats ignoring the tingling in my low back. Workout done, full day of work, but at the end of the day I couldn’t move because my back was completely locked up.
Denial, I have been denying that I was/am a victim for over 35 years. My denial takes the form of building myself up through physical training for strength and self-defense, I tell myself I do it so that I can protect others and deny that it helps me to feel less afraid.
Hoping that my back would just sort of… get better on its own… I went to work the next day. It was strange to not be able to move or to sit still…but that was the case. Dang, couldn’t deny that I was injured, time to call the Doctor. After poking, prodding, touching my toes (very painfully but I’m not gonna not touch my toes when the Doc tells me to) and x rays, cat scans, and a nice diner’s worth of co-pays it turns out I had a bulging disk in my lumbar region…. The long run that exhausted my legs and the extra weight on the squats cause a little misalignment and pinch in my vertebrae…… Pain killers and muscle relaxers are terrifying to me because of my alcoholism. My doctor knows and prescribes…. Yoga. (stop laughing it works!) Upward dog and cobra pose to create a vacuum to slurp the offending disk back in its proper place. I got the pills just in case, but didn’t use them.
Shame, I have shame, I am ashamed, I have been shamed, the things I do to relieve that shame just add to it. It’s like a black hole with infinite density and gravity that sucks everything I do into the pit…. The darkness calls to darkness to be fed.
Obviously I kept working out, because, attention and power. I have always craved attention, and it’s easy to get attention when you have muscles and I still feel like I have to build up my power and my strength (to help others… really!) I just added my yoga poses to my workout and everything was fine. I could go back to the weights (I really wanna say that the weights no longer had to wait… but I won’t because that’s too corny)
Fear, I have been afraid, I am afraid, I have fear. I’m afraid that it’s still happening to me, that I’ll continue the cycle, that I’m not strong enough to save anyone (including myself.) I’m afraid that people will judge me if they find out what happened.
I still get twinges in my back, I supposed I never really let it heal properly and I’m just managing the injury now. I do other exercises to strengthen that specific part of my back to cover the injury. I continue my yoga to help relieve the pain, and most days I’m able to forget that it ever happened.
Healing, I have never healed, I am not healed. I hide my victimization, deny it. I have lived in shame and fear of the truth. Fingers pointing just shoves it deeper, other’s righteousness just shades it darker…..
So, what’s the point? Right now the conversation has started. The words of a potential leader have come back to haunt him and the country has polarized itself over those words. Some of those words were vulgar and profane. Others out of context are quit tame. I and can and do and whatever and want are words we can use anywhere; in church, at school, in a library (as long as we whisper right?) but when someone in power puts them together to essentially say, “I can do whatever I want.” In the context of another person’s body or even their emotions it could possibly be the most vulgar thing anyone could say.
It’s not ok, but the conversation has started. Shame and fear will kill the conversation, which is why I am now standing with the victims.
Denial will also kill the conversation. Men who climb that high horse and point the finger and say, “How dare you sir!?!?” This will cause the offenders to run and hide, to go to the dark pit and refuse their actions. The world won’t change if only the victims come forward…… we won’t heal if the offenders stay hidden… a one sided conversation is a lecture, and healing doesn’t occur from a lecture.
So, I have talked about the damage I’ve done and the hearts I’ve broken. These were forms of abuse, of taking my power and (if not saying it outright) acting like I could do whatever I want. I admit it.
I have objectified women.
I have abused my power and not honored my responsibilities and I have let down friends and loved ones because of it.
I have let my anger rage at my kids until tears were flowing like rivers of shame and tiny bodies were shuddering in fear.
I have decided to stop.
Crucify me if you will (honestly, only one man was ever worthy of crucifixion and I am not Him) but I really don’t think that righteously denying our own guilt will help us heal.
Originally I thought I was writing this to confess to my offenses…. As I look through my blog posts I see that I have been admitting my wrongs, but I have never made the most difficult admission…. that I am a victim.
Men are supposed to be tough, strong, and able to get through anything. But I am weak (at this point I know I’m supposed to tie it back in with a cute phrase so…) and I’ve decided to stop adding weight to the bar. I can’t heal on my own and I need His strength and even more so His grace to heal.
When I feel so tired of carrying the weight of shame of what happened to me and what I’ve done to others I pray Matthew 11:28-30 and I offer my shame up to God.
Matthew 11: 28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”