Friendship


Written on 5/17/2010:

The last few months have been a blur. Busy, busy, busy. I’ve been in a really good mental and spiritual place and have even started getting into a routine to get into physical shape. Finally. My genes have allowed me to be lazy. I’m tall and (for the most part) slim and that has made it really easy for me to splurge with junk food and become nearly non-active. I’ve realized that it’s also contributed to my mental state and fatigue as well. Duh. 🙂 So, I’m starting slow with walking for 45-60 minutes, several times a week, and merging a couple of minutes of running in there. My goal is to be able to run (at least!) a half marathon one day. Writing that out made my stomach drop because I can barely run two blocks without feeling like I’m dying/hyperventilating.

Now, when I say I’ve been in a really good mental/spiritual place lately, it doesn’t mean that every day has been amazing and perfect. It means that my outlook on life; my comfortability with who I am and where I am in life, has been steadily accelerating to a healthy and positive place.

I got back, yesterday, from a weekend trip to the mountains, with other women from my church. In anxiety and fear, I almost decided not to go. Being at a church event, a “retreat” with 400 women that I don’t know, doesn’t necessarily cause me to jump for joy. I always feel transported back to junior high at these type of events. Consumed with feelings of inadequacy, awkwardness and embarrassment. Thankfully, God is placing people in my life that care enough about me to take my “no” and shove it back in my face. With love, of course. 🙂

I learned two things on this weekend trip. One, what people say about me is NOT a reflection of who I am, it’s a reflection of who THEY are. I needed to hear that SO bad. I am, and always have been, a people-pleaser. To the point that I am never “good enough” because I am always striving for the perfection in other’s eyes. The second thing that I learned is that an ipod, Truth through music, my voice, a snowstorm and a snow-covered valley at the top of a mountain can be more redeeming for a soul than anything I’ve ever imagined.

My last blog entry had me looking forward to helping out with the Downtown Rescue Mission again. Well, fear got in the way of that and I never went back. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back.

I was preparing to help my friend that night and, on a whim, I decided to reread the story of my childhood/teenage years, my testimony. I wrote it out, years ago, but some sort of curiosity took over and I read it, just hours before I was supposed to leave. That was a major mistake and it sent me into a downward spiral. Reading about being in numerous, frightening positions and being taken advantage of many times, made me feel stupid for preparing to put myself in a situation where, once again, I’d be in a room where the men to women ratio and the drug-free to on-drugs ratio was desperately uneven. Reading about those bad times and feeling like they had all happened yesterday, caused me to completely freeze up. I tried to fight off the fear but it only intensified. I tried to rationalize and it only retaliated, stronger and more convincing.

I was terrified and it enflamed me. I was crushed. I felt defeated. I felt like I was taking two steps backward from the healing and recovery that I felt I had just gone through.

Two weeks prior, I felt on top of the world with conquering a fear and feeling like I would never look back or take a step back and here I was, trembling with the possibility that I was about to make the stupidest decision to go help people. This fear got my mind racing at the endless possibility of having anxiety take over, preventing me from doing just about everything. Where would it stop? What would trigger this fear? How many situations will I put myself in, in the future, and then realize that I feel vulnerable and trapped and want out? It was in this moment of sheer terror that I was grateful (and pissed off that I was grateful) that I never went to Afghanistan. I can’t imagine having this fear and anxiety overtake me as I’m halfway across the world from everything that makes me feel safe.

This situation also got me learning much more about myself. I’m learning that I have boundaries. I can’t stand knowing that I have them but this has to be some sort of positive step in realizing this about myself. It’s caused me to figure out what frightened me about going back to the Rescue Mission and what situations, in the future, might cause this fear to rise.

I feel as though there’s a fine line with knowing too much about people and not knowing enough. I know that people can be cruel and that sometimes a certain type of person is more prone to cruelty than others. Obviously I can’t see their heart, so I discriminate toward the people that remind me of those that have harmed me. The lack of knowledge about people can easily be replaced by fear while having knowledge about people can instill fear as well. How do I combat this? It seems like a neverending cycle… At various points in my life this fear will cause me to freeze and hide, tremble and cower. What I’m learning is that the antonym of my fear is faith and hope. I can have all the love in the world but, in fear, that love is worthless. Without faith and hope, I would continually sit in my house and ponder the end of everything good.

While learning the boundaries of my emotional well-being, I’m also discovering what it takes to push past those boundaries. I’m learning what I’m prepared to conquer and what may still take time to overcome. There may be things in my life that I will never be able to do because fear is gripping so tight. There may be things I never would have dreamed to prevail over and I may effortlessly triumph. For now, I’m grateful to be learning more about what I can and can’t handle and I’m grateful to learn more about what faith in God actually means.

I’ve been treading water, keeping my head above drowning, for my entire life. Specifically, desperately, in the last year. I’m just now realizing that I’ve done nothing to bring me closer to shore, to where I want to be. I’ve completely worn myself out, staying in the same place. In faith, in action, I must press on. Beyond the boundary.

I know I’ve written a lot of heavy posts this year. The reason behind that is… well… it’s been a heavy year for me. For the first time in my life, I’ve dealt with traumatic events against me – starting with when I was eight years old. It’s been a tough year but it’s been an extremely healthy, healing year. For that, I am grateful, sometimes overwhelmed, in knowing how blessed I am.

In honor of Thanksgiving, this is my list of thanks.

  • For my perfect fit, Jase: He’s the most patient, loving, forgiving, gracious person I know.
  • For Malakai: My genious, loving, drumming, passionate first-born.
  • For Zoe: My happy, creative, kind and sensitive little girl.
  • For Cali: My carefree, dancing-singing, funny, precious toddler.
  • For all of my family and friends: Their support, love, listening ears, sound advice, similar struggles, and compassionate hearts have taught me so much.
  • I’m thankful, to the extent of immense disbelief and emotion, for the love and forgiveness I’ve been shown by the Creator of life. I am constantly moved to tears for the sacrifice that Jesus gave to me and the people that have harmed me. Because of Him, I know love. Because of Him, I know forgiveness and grace. Because of Jesus, I know the effects of second chances. For that chance, I breathe deep everyday and vow to show the same love that I’ve been gifted.
  • For the material possessions (house, vehicles, bed, computer, television) that allow me to relax and love myself, my family and all others while life attempts to push me into the ground, burying me with expectations and flashbacks and busyness.
  • For Jase’s job. His current job is the best he’s ever had but Jase has constantly worked his butt off to make sure that I’m able to stay home and raise our children with our values and morals.
  • For my past. I can not truthfully claim to wish change with any of it, for fear in it changing the positive aspects of my current life. Even in the midst of flashbacks (causing me to relive the pain and trauma) I know that allowing God to work through my past has made me a stronger and more loving person. Would I like to have this strength and love without having experienced the pain? Sure. But I can’t live life while drowning in “what if” scenarios. So, because of my past and with severe diligence, I will let my past refine me (for better) and use it to help me protect my children. I’ll pray they know the love, empathy and passion I have for people, WITHOUT needing to experience what I went through.
  • For the opportunity I have in being a mentor to youth. Because of my past, I have a heart/passion for youth, however, with the opportunity to reach out to them, I have a voice. Because of this opportunity, it’s become a positive reason to speak the heartache I’ve been through.
  • For the beauty of God’s creation. All of it. The intricate solar system, down to the smallest particle. I am blown away by how life has been so perfectly created. I love photographing nature and gazing at pictures of space. I notice, every day, how perplex and perfect God’s creativity graces us with it’s presence.
  • For music. Music helped fuel the rage I had as a teenager but has also helped keep me afloat while drowning in sadness. Music can bring out every single emotion in me and something about singing on stage makes me feel extraordinarily close to God and people.
  • For laughter. God, in His own sense of humor, has placed in me an unusual one. My humor is self-reliant. Almost daily, something in my own imagination gives me a chuckle. I’m also surrounded by so many people that help this innate desire to laugh and make others laugh. For that, I’m sincerely grateful for wittiness, sarcasm and ignorance to idiocy. Writing that even made me giggle. 😉

When looking for opportunities of thanks, rather than opportunities to complain, your list will overwhelm you as well.

Look around. Find beauty. Somewhere. Anywhere. Cling to it.

My friend posted something on her facebook page the other day, about the Oprah show that she just watched. My friend mentioned how her heart breaks for “these women.” Since I only have preschool shows on during the day, I went to Oprah’s site and got the scoop. The topic for this particular show was on women who had been sexually abused at the hand of family members.

Growing up in with a strict, religious-focused mentality, really screwed me up. As a child and teenager, there were many things that were taboo topics in my family. The thinking was, if negative things were discussed, they’d be at the forefront of our minds and it would make us want to do those things. If we were talking about negative feelings, then we weren’t focusing on God or allowing Him to heal us. Total BS brainwashing. Especially when I had questions about sex, drugs and drinking as a pre-teen and then not knowing what to do or who to talk to after being molested by two family members and raped as a teenager. I’ve gone through HELL in my life because I’ve felt too afraid to speak up, too alone for anyone to care. Years of pain and trauma may have been avoided if I had been given the tools to deal with being molested when I was eight. Maybe I wouldn’t have turned to drugs, alcohol, stealing, running away, etc… maybe I wouldn’t have been molested, for years, by another family member. Maybe I wouldn’t have been raped.

Reading the summary of the Oprah show, the other day, reminded me that there is still SO much change that needs to happen in regard to sexual abuse survivors. In a way, I feel I’m now open to speaking about it so that must mean that everyone else is as well. I couldn’t believe the feedback I read while browsing through this particular site, as well as other sites. There are still so many women and men that are silent because they feel alone and afraid.

To me, it means that the voices of us survivors aren’t loud enough.

I want to be a loud advocate for victims/survivors but given the lack of confidence I have in myself and feeling like the help I have to offer has already been fulfilled by someone else and my story has already been told, it’s no wonder I’ve been dormant on this topic.

The reminder that there are still people too afraid to speak up or feeling like they are alone in their pain/abuse helps propel me, recharge me, to speak louder.

Why is sexual abuse such a taboo topic?!?

I’m sick of the muzzle, especially when it’s placed on by religion.

This year, I’ve finally found help: My church and their love for hurting, broken and weak people. My help has also come from finally tearing down the pride that had been fused to my DNA and talking to a counselor who showed me the depth of my PTSD and a variety of healing processes. So far, I’ve come across one book, Wounded Heart, that has been the most amazing help of all in getting me over my silenced shame and in understanding I’m not alone.

  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime.
  • College age women are 4 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.

It’s more than likely that if you aren’t a victim/survivor yourself, then you know of someone that has been sexually abused.

Our silence is deafening.

I have had severe writer’s block, for weeks, with this idea/post. I’m tired of it swimming around in my head. So, although it might be incomplete or disjointed, I’m publishing it now.

I had an epiphany last night. Oooo, I love those. I realized that if I would stop having expectations with other people, then they wouldn’t let me down. If I stopped expecting things from people or for them to act a certain way, then I wouldn’t be disappointed in them.

I realized that that must be what defines unconditional love. Then I realized that that is how I needed to start viewing myself. I judge myself quite severely.

For most of my life I’ve felt defined as a singer. Not as a person who loved to sing but as, just a singer. If I messed up in singing a song, I failed in who I was. It was a horrible place to put myself. If I wasn’t singing, I wasn’t fulfilling who I was meant to be. If I wasn’t at the top of my list of accomplishing “all things I want to do and places I want to go” with singing, then I wasn’t complete.

I feel closest to God when I’m singing on stage at church and most complete when I’m singing, anywhere. However, I was getting to the point, before and after singing, of being unnerved with how I did because it wasn’t the best.

Being ONLY a singer was killing the value that I should have placed within myself. Having unrealistic expectations was killing the unconditional love that I should have had for those around me.

Once I realized that my problem resided in the expectations I had on myself and others, I quickly learned how to dissolve the issue.

In this seemingly simple act of change, I’ve lifted another incredible burden off of my shoulders. The difference I feel, in singing (whether it’s at home for an hour or at church), is tremendous. I’m not held captive to the feeling of being a failure if I make a mistake because I’m not just a singer. I’m a person that loves to sing. I’m a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a mentor… that just loves to sing. This change has also lifted a burden off of people around me, whether they knew they were carrying this burden or not. If my family and friends failed in my expectations for them, then they were failing me. Now that I’ve dissolved those expectations, I feel I’m now free to love unconditionally.

No expectations = Unconditional love.

My counselor wasn’t available yesterday so we moved my appointment to today. Last night, I felt like canceling. I panicked and once again, felt that the money being spent on counseling might possibly be a waste and the freedom from the pain of my past and bad flashbacks might never happen. I couldn’t cancel at 11pm last night so I decided to give it another shot.

The session today was the most significant meeting I’ve ever had with any counselor. Ever.

She began talking about wanting to try a new exercise with me, “Breathing, Integrating and Grounding.” She mentioned that those suffering from PTSD usually have detachment issues. Detachment is a defense mechanism to protect the victim from further abuse. What she described was nothing short of a waterfall of enlightenment.

Just the fact that she brought this term (detachment) up, clued me into so much of who I am. I have a problem with being apathetic toward people, my children included. Jase and I have often said that I would be a horrible counselor because my advice would be to “get over it.” I have a hard time keeping close friends because I have a hard time letting others in below the surface and/or I don’t feel like keeping friends and wearing their pain. However, more often than not, I severely ache for hurting people. In one respect, I deal too objectively with people and in the other, I’m too empathetic. Both seem to be on overdrive. I have no gauge in figuring out when I’m opening myself up too much or not enough. As I type this all out now, I wonder if my empathy turns on when I feel safe and the detachment/defense mechanism turns on when I feel threatened. I can’t even describe the elation I feel with finally thinking we’ve hit the nail on the head with the core negative issue that drives me. This detachment issue is what allows me to not be dragged down by people and the problems they need to share with me. However, it’s also the issue that prevents me from letting Jase (and others) close to me at times. This detachment is what closes me off from some people and situations. If I feel threatened, I shut down. My brain goes somewhere safe, while my body “takes” on whatever I feel is a threat. It’s the reason why I shut off from society and hole myself up in my house. Obviously, in most cases, becoming detached has hurt me and has hurt relationships I’ve been in. However, in cases where friends and family or teenagers I’m mentoring or have mentored have vented/complained/freaked out OR when a family member/friend/acquaintance has hugged me, or touched any part of my body and I felt threatened, this mental state has served me well. Better to detach rather than punch them out. 🙂

The detachment really comes on strong when I have flashbacks. The flashbacks are triggered by different things, either when I’m alone and there’s no understandable reason to have them or when Jase and I are intimate, whether it’s sexual or not. During the session today, I realized that when I start having flashbacks while around Jase, I shut down.  Now that I have a word for it, I know that I detach from Jase but it’s not complete. I start feeling like a victim and my brain tries to escape and detach while a physical connection is made but I fight back on that further because I feel like I’m being taken advantage of and being used. Since Jase and I have been together, almost 12 years, I’ve reacted the same way when I have flashbacks or feel threatened. I’m quiet. As was every single time I was violated while growing up, I recreate the same atmosphere. It’s quiet, dark and I shut down. My counselor gave me the most beautiful homework ever. When these flashbacks happen with Jase, I have to communicate with him. I know it sounds like common sense but it hasn’t been. I completely recreate my violation atmosphere and then am despondent. So, I have to tell him that I’m having a flashback and then have him tell me: “Open your eyes and mirror my hand in yours” then while being gentle AND strong (so important for both to coexist) he needs to bring me back to reality by asking, “What’s your name? What’s the date today?” Then tell me, “You’re safe.” I couldn’t stop crying when my counselor told me this because, instantly, I knew it would be the most beneficial advice I’ve ever had when dealing with my PTSD. For the first time since being violated I will start creating a new pattern when in despair or in fear.

I recognize when my detachment is well-used but I also now know when I’m using it incorrectly. Now that the problem is visualized, the correction can be made.

A few years ago I saw an amazing dress at a thrift store and immediately knew I needed to buy it and wear it in a photo shoot. Jase takes great pictures of nature but I’m usually the one, behind the camera, in pajama pants and t-shirts, taking pictures of people. I knew we’d have a great time doing something like this and he jumped at the chance to share in this experience with me.

I’ve been scouting locations and ideas for this photo, ever since I bought the fifteen dollar dress. I thought an old rundown mine, barn or old factory would be a great location but I changed my mind once I realized those things would take the focus off of the image I had in my head. So… yesterday, after talking it out with Jase, I decided that nature would be the best location. I needed to narrow the list down to what type of nature shot: field, marsh, mountain landscape or forest? Looking at pictures online, I realized that “forest” seemed like the best fit. Now, all we had to do was find the perfect spot. I thought we’d have take a two-three hour drive into the mountains but after cross-referencing Colorado landscape images online with Google Map street views, I realized we had some prime location spots about thirty-forty minutes from us, in Boulder.

Since Malakai and Zoe were at a slumber party and we wouldn’t see them until noon at church the next day, Jase and I decided that we should do the photo shoot in the morning before church. We thought it would be fun to wake up before sunrise but we slept in and getting ready took longer than anticipated. We left the house at eight o’clock and headed into Boulder Canyon.

I didn’t know if my hair should be straight or wavy, up or down but Jase helped in that decision. Although I knew I wanted my eye makeup to be extremely dark and dramatic, I had a hard time figuring out exactly what it should look like. I was online last night for about an hour, just checking out eye makeup images. I started the application process on myself once we were on the road this morning but it ended up looking like Amy Winehouse did it. So Jase, being the artist he is, completed my eyes for me.

Jase and I talked about what we’d need to bring on location for a picture preview, without interrupting the camera, because I’ve had a “vision” of what I wanted it to look like for about three years. Last year, we had his camera hooked up to one of our mini televisions when Jase took pictures in our garage for a headshot I needed. However, lugging around a television while hiking to a forest location did not sound enjoyable to me or Jase. So, Jase decided to bring his laptop for viewing shots and/or dumping his card.

We drove around the Boulder Canyon area for about an hour, stopped off at three or four different areas and made about five different u-turns before finding a great spot with great vehicle access, secluded, away from the public, with a clearing, near the river and with an availability to cross the quick-moving river without getting swept away or completely submerged and while carrying a stool, tripod, laptop, camera, diaper bag, my dress, the under garments, Cali and her stroller. Since Jase only had one pair of shoes, he initially crossed the river and scoped out the location while barefoot. The moss-covered rocks quickly taught him that we’d both have to sacrifice and have soaked shoes if we were going to get this shot. So, Jase went to church barefoot and wearing heavy, wet jeans. The sun was shining once we arrived but the clouds rolled in for perfect lighting and rolled away once we were done.

Jase took over four hundred pictures this morning and we spent over an hour in our exotic location. Cali sat, perfect, in her stroller, the entire time. This experience was so amazing for me and Jase and both of us feel so much more in love after planning and accomplishing this together.

Here’s Mr. Genius (a.k.a. Jase), dumping his card, and Ms. Perfect (a.k.a. Cali), keeping herself occupied with her baby:

Boulder Canyon, 5/31/09

I’m sure Jase will work on some of the pics and make them look awesome, but here are a couple unedited versions, click them to enlarge:

Boulder Canyon, 5/31/09

Boulder Canyon, 5/31/09

And here are several unedited versions without links to enlarge:

Boulder Canyon, 5/31/09

Boulder Canyon, 5/31/09

Boulder Canyon, 5/31/09

Boulder Canyon, 5/31/09

I first heard about Invisible Children (IC) in 2004. I was living in Alabama at the time and since this was a hometown, San Diego, organization, I thought that I could only help from afar, by word-of-mouth.

Living in Colorado, I first got involved with Invisible Children in April 2006. The event was called Global Night Communte (GNC). I had been wanting, so desperately, to actually do something that I jumped at the chance to spend the night, in some strange downtown Denver park, with only my six year old son, Malakai, and our sleeping bags. I don’t feel I’m making a legitimate change in this world unless I can bring my family, my own children, with me in the plight. My children have such an amazing road of change before them. They learn best when actually experiencing change.

Me and Malakai, making an effort for change: IC's GNC, April 2006. (Denver, Colorado)

Me and Malakai: IC's GNC, April 2006. (Denver, Colorado)

Early morning rise in front of the State Capitol, IC's GNC, April 2006. (Denver, Colorado)

IC's GNC, April 2006. (Denver, Colorado)

The second time I joined in an event with Invisible Children, it was for DisplaceMe in April 2007. This journey was a little more interesting, given the fact that I was now almost eight months pregnant with Cali and we would basically be hiking about a mile to our final location, while trying to balance water bottles and crackers, cardboard box “homes”, sleeping bags and my humongo belly. The numerous middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom to pee, a quarter of a mile away from our “home”, through a field of potholes, in the dark, was very humbling. This time my nephew, Clay, came along with me and Malakai.

Clay, Malakai and me (with Cali protruding from my belly).

Clay, Malakai and me (with Cali protruding from my belly): IC's DisplaceMe, April 2007. (Parker, Colorado)

Just a small portion of those that attended our displaced camp. (Parker, Colorado)

Just a small portion of those that attended our displaced camp. IC's DisplaceMe, April 2007. (Parker, Colorado)

Our rationed water, handed out when organizers saw fit.

Our rationed water, handed out when organizers saw fit. IC's DisplaceMe, April 2007. (Parker, Colorado)

Our rationed "dinner", handed out when the organizers saw fit.

Our rationed "dinner", handed out when the organizers saw fit. IC's DisplaceMe, April 2007. (Parker, Colorado)

Our shelter for the night. IC's DisplaceMe, April 2007. (Parker, Colorado)

Our shelter for the night. IC's DisplaceMe, April 2007. (Parker, Colorado)

Invisible Children is doing again. On April 25, 2009, thousands of people in 9 countries and 100 cities take part in abducting themselves and calling attention to over 300 children abducted to fight in a murderous rebellion army.

If you have a heart to change the world. I highly suggest you start by watching this video**. Jase and I don’t have money to help out every organization we attach our heart to.

However, we DO have time.

We have a voice.

We have limbs / a country /vehicles / freedom to actually take action with.

We have our own children and other youth, that look up to us to lead by example.

We have our own children, and other impressionable youth, that won’t ever have to fear being abducted by gun-toting rebels who pierce into camps and rape, pillage and kill in the middle of the night, or day.

I dare you to watch this video**. I dare you to take action. I dare you to spread the word as far as you can.

Let’s teach our children, the next generation of leaders, about those that have become Invisible. Let’s help those who have no voice / no country / no freedom of their own.

Put your apathy on the back burner.

**Disclaimer: The video is amazing and life-changing in and of itself, but it’s full of graphic imagery/audio/photos surrounding the effects of war. In regard to younger viewers, do with that as you will.

I just wrote out that title and had a flood of Pink Floyd songs rush through my head. It’s not that Wall.

I’m talking about the wall around my heart.

My dad was a contractor so I have confidence in knowing that I’ve done a pretty good job of building this wall. Years of painful labor. I’ve had it knocked down a few times and have had to rebuild it taller and stronger, but it’s still here. Sometimes I go on building, consciously/meticulously aware of my actions and other times I’m on autopilot, unaware that my actions are shutting people out.

I’ve never had close friends (Jase doesn’t count, he isn’t female). I’ve moved around too much and have been hurt too much. Sometimes life is easier to stay alone than to give effort into another human being. Then there’s no one to let me down, no one to use me, no one to hurt me.

In junior high, I already had the short end of the stick by living in an area that had very few white people. It was a few miles north of the border of Mexico, in San Diego, and was predominantly Hispanic, Filipino and African-American. Given that fact and the fact that I had a severe lack of social skills based on an abuse I fell victim to when I was eight, I had a pretty worthless concoction of junior high desirability. As an adult, I have had dreams of me at my junior high, full of anxiety for running late to class and missing days of school. Every dream has me freaked out, alone and scared. Which pretty much sums up my mentality throughout junior high. Sure, I had some friends and we have fun memories but it turns out they only really liked me to get to my older brother (several of them dated him). As a teenager, I read a note to him from an ex-boyfriend’s sister and it said that this ex of mine had only dated me because she was dating my brother. That was a pretty bad “baptism by fire” of how I felt the world thought of me. In the beginning of junior high, I was timid and learned how to take the verbal blows and threats thrown my way and was extremely naive. But soon, I learned about the lies and deceit, I learned how to make people laugh and learned to rebel and do things that made people want to be around me. I learned to be a puppet-master, only the strings I was holding were also manipulated by the marionettes themselves.

I started all over with friends again by attending a new high school in another district. Due to it being new, they were allowing kids in from all over the county and were starting with grades ten and nine.  My class would be the first graduating class so this was very new but very exciting. Bringing my bad habits from junior high, I got worse in high school. Strangely enough, I excelled in my Color Guard and Choir (even picking up the lead solo part in our big musical) while plummeting in my social interaction. I started minor then major drugs. Stealing a large amount of cash and items and then running away for the weekend got me kicked out of this amazing school.

Back to square one.

Back in my old neighborhood with no friends again, my junior year in high school was even worse as I was now in a school with no choir department (singing became the sole reason I started loving school). I declined further and this time, a day of ditching turned into ten days of living on the streets. When I came home from that nightmare, I was checked into an in-patient rehab facility. After my older brother was jumped several times and involved in gang activity over the years and a friend of ours was stabbed to death while I was on the streets, my parents finally came to grips with the environment we were growing up in needing to change. When I got out of rehab, I was reacclimated to another high school for the remaining portion of my junior year. This was the hardest change of all because the ghetto lifestyle I had always known had suddenly been replaced by hippies, stoners and hicks. I didn’t know how to cope and felt like I was starting junior high all over again, so the library became my hangout. Then I started back up with my bad habits, fell into a bad crowd of manipulating and being manipulated. I was accepted again into the culture of “friendship”. This began two hardcore years of abusing my body and being taken advantage of.

When I changed my life to follow God, just before turning nineteen, I joined a small group of girls in a bible study and thought life was now perfect. I finally loosened up around one girl and completely shared my embarrassing past with her. She “rewarded” my vulnerability by lying to me for two straight months.

By this time, I had no concept of what a true friend consisted of. I was nineteen years old, soon coming into a marriage and I only had comprehension of what friendship was by the lack of and failed relationships in my life. Once I got married, at twenty-one, the tables turned again and the friends in my life seemed to disappear. I guess Jase somehow consumed that friend role for me. I didn’t want to spend time with “the girls” (not really knowing what I was missing anyway) when I had the man of my dreams vying for my attention.

We moved to Alabama when I was twenty-six. Which showed me, more so than ever before, how much of an outcast I was. I was trying to join in a circle of friends that had begun decades, if not generations, before. My hip-hop, stoner, hippie vibe was just not something the people in Alabama could grasp. It was very difficult to start relationships out there and as soon as the seed of friendship started to FINALLY bloom, we picked up and moved to Colorado.

I feel like I planted my feet pretty quick and deep as soon as we arrived to Colorado Springs. For a year and a half, I opened up and nurtured friendships that ended up withering and wilting as soon as Jase, the kids and I left for Denver.

I’m ready to plant my feet again. I know we love Colorado and Denver and the church we go to. I know I’ve found a safe place, with safe people.

For the first time in my life, I feel Gorbachev gearing up to ‘tear down this wall’ and I can finally be free to let friends in.

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