#VulnerabilityForTheWin

vulnerable [vuhl-ner-uh-buh l]

adjective

1. capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon

2. open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.

3. (of a place) open to assault; difficult to defend

I tend to have a recurring conversation with many of you. Oh sure, the words & situations are different & personalized according to your lives. However, I hear the same frustrations, fears, insecurities from each of you. Followed by “I am the only one that feels/thinks/believes this way.” Many of these being the same fears, frustrations & insecurities that I myself have. During these confessions, I have come to the conclusion that we all believe we must suffer these alone.

Why do we refuse to be honest about where we are, what we are struggling with or ask for help? Is it because we fear the vulnerability that comes with sharing? Is it because we are all posting Instagram pictures of giant smiles & happy families? Or because our Facebook statuses always give the impression that we are riding unicorns to work as supermodels & are about to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for solving world hunger?

Honey, let me let you in on a little secret – My unicorn stood me up, my supermodel contract was shredded & the only prize I’m winning is Kroger fuel points.

As much “fun” (very loose interpretation of that word!) as much fun as Facebook & Instagram are, I believe there is also a destruction that occurs within us by not being more open with our lives. When I get to work or church, my smile comes out. Not because I’m “faking” it per se, but because in that moment, I’m not crying. Now don’t think I cry all the times in between. I don’t. Mostly. Lol. But I don’t appear as if I am struggling either. Neither do you or you or you. So if my struggle is a little extra hard today & all the women around me are not sharing where they are with theirs, guess what? I feel like I’m the only one that feels/thinks/believes this way. I’m not saying we should walk around with tissues falling out of our oversized cardigan sweater which is covering our plaid pajamas & house slippers while we sorrowfully broadcast our woes.

What I am saying is this:

First of all: YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE THAT FEELS THIS WAY. Let me repeat that. Look in the mirror, point to yourself & repeat after me. “YOU are not the only one that feels this way!” I promise.

Secondly: Remember the overused cliche that says “Be the change you wish to see in the world?” Well, I hate to throw it at you again but it’s true. Your people need to know that being vulnerable & real is ok. Not just ok but acceptable & encouraged. Soooo…it’s your job to take the first step. I know. Sharing our weaknesses is hardly something fun. But it is a way to break that Super Hero Facebook status that only holds true when we have to keep it together.

Which brings me to my third thought. Why are we acting so together? Wait. Put that oversized cardigan & pajamas away. I’m not giving permission to sulk, quit life or slink into brooding. What I am giving you permission for is to be real with where you are at any given moment. So what if a song on the radio made you ugly cry on your way to work & now your makeup is running down your face? Wear those streaks with pride. Own your messy bun & yoga pants day because it’s been a week that would wear out a toddler. We put so much effort into appearing “together” we don’t realize the freedom we can feel by letting those cracks in our armors show our personal truths. Not just for you, but for your best friends, your sisters, your co workers…

And finally friends, let me ask you this: how much more powerful would my prayers be for you if I knew how deeply the situation was effecting your life? Or your heart? Not that I’m not praying when I say I am, but if it’s a casual request, I will likely throw a prayer out & move on. If it’s something I know is really agonizing someone, I usually keep it in my prayer bucket, follow up with them & keep encouraging them. Or what if someone could help you with a specific situation because you trusted them with the need, rather than not knowing at all or just knowing you were going through “something.” Maybe you really just need a night out so we can grab dinner or just a cup of coffee with an ear to listen? Or maybe you need a hug from someone that just loves you for who you are to them-a flawed, streaky makeup face, ugly crying beauty. By holding ourselves so tightly together we are unable to embrace the wonderful resources we have in each other.

My challenge to you is this: Try opening up. For real. Not just “I’ve got a lot going on.” But a real “I know I don’t trust people with all of my heart so I keep everyone at a safe distance & it makes me feel lonely most of the time.” (Yes. That’s mine for the day. Writing this blog is a HUGE exercise in my vulnerability. It’s a true love/hate relationship.) You don’t have to tell your pharmacist & oil change guy but when you speak with a friend, share your real heart & let them know it’s safe to share theirs.

Ok lovelies,

Love your uglies, let them show a bit.

Till next time…

Matilda Grace

#MeToo

Recently, there have been many women speaking out about sexual assault, harassment, rape & abuse, in addition to many people criticizing how it can go unspoken for so long. As a survivor of sexual abuse, maybe I can shed some light onto this for the people that just don’t understand. Please know, I am not sharing this for sympathy of any sort. I believe God has used my experiences to shape me into who I am today, I am NOT a victim of sexual abuse, I AM a survivor & a fighter! Please do not reply with any “oh I’m so sorry…” I appreciate the sentiment, however, it feels like sympathy almost gives power back to my abusers. I prefer to fight back with education & awareness. Something I wouldn’t have without my history.

Ok, first of all, let’s not forget that it is in fact, a form of abuse. Just like many other forms of abuse & violence, sexual abuses (entailing all forms-rapes, harassments, assaults, molestations, forced pornography, forced prostitution…) this is a manipulation, a control, a power trip, a way to dominate a person that is “beneath” the perpetrator. And in case you were unaware of the stats surrounding this silent epidemic, 1 of 4 women & 1 in 6 men have faced some sort of inappropriate unwanted sexual assault. Look around you, how many people is that in your life?

In my first experience, I was in the third grade. My friend had a brother in high school. He molested me during a time when we were being silly third grade girls. I had zero understanding of what was happening. He didn’t threaten me, but he did shame me into feeling dirty. I didn’t feel I could ever share that experience with anyone. So I didn’t. As a child, I believed older people were to be respected & trusted. How was I to know that not all were worthy of such trust? How was I to know which to hand my trust over to safely? I was in the third grade. My creep alarm was not yet developed. So I sat on it, blocked it away from my memory until I was 16. However, even to this very day, if I hear my friend’s name, my mind goes straight to her brother & that night almost 40 years ago when he stole my ability to ever fully be that little girl with child-like innocence.

My second trip down this road was at the hands of my grandfather. No pun intended, as he used his hands to molest me. If you recall from previous posts, he was fairly bold about his attacks. He bought me gifts to lure me into submission, then using his grandfatherly authority, insisted it was our secret. This time robbing me of being able to trust the people that are put into a child’s life to nurture, teach, grow, love & develop them. I suppose he did a few of those, but through a very damaging process. He taught me not all adults are trustworthy. He forced me to grow up at the age of 10, because I had to turn my grandfather into Children’s Services. He developed me into a girl that still struggles with trust issues 35 years later.

My final example for the evening will be from when I was in high school. I had a job at a fast food restaurant. (I will not name it because at the time, the laws were just not there to protect employees like they are now.) At work, I had a male co-worker that was apparently “interested” in me. When I did not feel the same, he began to utilize tools of the restaurant to make sexual advances towards me. I would turn the corner & he would stick a utensil into my nether regions. We used pool noodles on the salad bar. He would use these to assault my backside. He trapped me up against the walls. Gropping became a part of my daily life. When I complained about it, my boss would reply with “what do you want me to do?” I was still a teenager. How was I to know what she should do?

Just so you understand, very few people know about 2 of these situations. I don’t walk around shouting “I WAS SEXUALLY ASSAULTED AND ABUSED!!!” Being sexually abused isn’t a badge of honor we wear. It’s a vehicle of shame, condemnation & manipulation over us. We aren’t eager to call people out for their behavior because it’s embarrassing that we were taken advantage of in such a demeaning manner. It’s almost every negative thing you could possibly do to another person in one swift life changing action.

Why does it take dozens of women to “out” a Hollywood mogul? Because his power trip is so large it’s terrifying to consider doing alone. Why is it that once it began, now many others are being brought up? It’s not because it’s being made up as they go along. It’s because bravery comes with the numbers. It’s because some of the experiences have been repressed due to PTSD. These people have not stayed silent just so they can make more money. But can you blame them for needing to stay in the business that does provide them income? Would you be able to walk away from your job & potentially never work in your field again? I couldn’t. Sure, switch fields. As a Jane Doe, like the rest of us, not hard to do. But as a celebrity, how do you suddenly look for work at Subway or driving a bus? It doesn’t work like that.

I am not saying there aren’t people out there that make false accusations. There certainly are those types of people. However, most people will not seek attention in this particular way. I venture to guess, most people would not be able to make up a believable story about a sexual assault experience & tell others about it without feeling a small inkling of the shame associated with it. So imagine the shame we feel trying to tell the real deal. Imagine living through the actual stories you are now hearing. Imagine sitting your family down & explaining what has happened. Picture being questioned by police & advocates trying to get justice for yourself. Unsuccessfully trying to “wash” off the shame & the disgusting feel of their skin touching yours in hundreds of showers. Being examined under bright white lights by strangers while you lie naked in the ER. Live through all of this and tell me that women make this stuff up.

So to my friends who have survived this rocky journey, I applaud your strength, your bravery, your courage, your determination. Your recovery is inspiring to so many others. Find your steady voice & continue to share yourself out of the darkness.

To those of you fortunate enough to have not walked this path, be kind to those that have. And if you can’t be kind, be quiet. The harsh judgment or criticism you speak so loudly is damaging to our healing. If I was your wife, daughter, sister, mother, best friend…would you believe for one second it was ok to speak so cruelly to me after what I have lived through? Would you ever allow another person to speak to those strong, surviving women in your life the way you are cruelly speaking towards these women you know nothing about?

Friends, love your journey. God has placed you on the road to recovery so you can be a light in the lives of others. It’s not always easy. In fact, some days it is downright hard. But you can do this. On the days you can’t, find a friend you trust, meet for coffee and unload.

I love you all.

Matilda Grace

I hope The Joyful Heart Foundation & A21 don’t mind me hijacking their photos to help get my point across.

#NoMore #JoyfulHeartFoundation #MeToo #SurvivorNotVictim #BeKindOrBeQuiet #MariskaHargitay #ChristineCaine #A21