Hard Times, Harder Fight

This last week has been one of the hardest I have endured in a long time. As I have been fighting hard to make my life better, it seems that for every step forward I take, I am knocked back two. While I’m working hard to keep making forward progress, this last week made me feel like what little light I had going on at the end of the tunnel had been snuffed out.

I have written over and over again about hope, positivity, and choosing to focus on the good in life. I struggled this week though for a variety of reasons. It was like life needed to knock me on my butt, and once I was there, the blows just kept coming.

I got a new full time job. Yay, right?! Wrong. For one, I’m not thrilled to be back to living the two job life. Working 6 to 7 days a week is exhausting. It pretty much takes away any kind of personal life I can have and makes it seem like I just live to work. Two jobs is temporary though, so I can get over that. For the first time in my life though, I’m now in a factory job. The work is hard, the days are long, the rules are extremely strict, and my position is outside in the elements all day. Coming into winter now makes me cringe at the thought of having to spend 40+ hours outside in it each week. I was devastated when I realized my position assignment for this. It was definitely not what I had wanted.

On top of the work stuff, it seems that my entire personal life decided to fall apart at the same time too. While I don’t want to go into much detail because it’s not just my privacy at stake, but many others too, I can say that this week was nothing short of a shitshow. Every single day, life was throwing punches that were pummeling my heart. I cried, I screamed, I yelled, and then I cried some more. I even had a full on meltdown. Let’s just say that life was not kind to me over the last several days. I had several moments where I felt like this is all just too hard, and I wanted to throw in the towel. Exhaustion, adjusting to major new life changes, getting my feelings hurt deeply, dealing with parenting rebellious teenagers, and more all at once was enough to leave me crying like a little baby every single day. It was just an incredibly hard week.

As I’ve been thinking about all of this the last couple of days though, I am reminded of one thing. I can’t change a lot about my life circumstances right now. The one thing I can control though is my attitude. I have a choice in whether or not I crumple to the ground and let my entire world fall apart. I have a choice in whether or not I want to start this new job with a positive outlook. I have a choice in whether or not I want to wallow in miserable self-pity or if I pull myself up by the bootstraps and push forward with a smile on my face.

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It is okay to have those occasional meltdowns, especially when life is throwing the amount of crazy curveballs it has been throwing me lately. It is okay to cry and scream and lose it. Go ahead and meltdown. But then, when you’ve cried it all out, dry your eyes, wash your face, and then get back up! If life is going to throw punches, then throw some punches of your own back! You own your life, you own your reactions and choices, and you own your behavior. Focus on what you can change, and let go of what you cannot. These were the big lessons I was reminded of this week.

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And lastly, if you are struggling to the point that you are considering suicide, please reach out. There are many resources available and you are not alone. Your life is worth living.

Hang in there, my friends. Life is all about seasons and if you are going through an incredibly hard season right now, take comfort in knowing that a good one is coming soon.

Much love,
Moonshine Niki

Today Is The Day

I’ve had a hurting heart for a long time now. Most of my life has been painful in one way or another, and this is garbage my heart has hauled around with me wherever I go, in good times and bad, in happy and sad…

Thirteen years ago yesterday, I gave a doctor permission to turn off my sweet baby girl’s life support. Thirteen years ago, I took my precious 2 month old baby girl into my arms and rocked and sang to her as she took her last breaths and left this world. Thirteen years ago, I became a different woman. I wish I could say that over time my heart has healed and it’s just a horrible tragedy I now reflect back on with sadness. Some of that is true. I’ve done as much healing as is possible with the loss of my child, but grief is a forever “friend” for anyone that has lost someone close. The problem is that since that day, my life has been one battle after another, one tragedy after another, one heartache after another.

Becoming a bride at 17 set me up for an incredibly difficult life in ways I NEVER would have expected. Times were hard, I never had money, and I had an abusive husband. Then my world was rocked with my baby girl, and life got even harder. I let one hurt stack up on top of another, then another hurt layered on top of that, and so on. I let these hurts layer on top of my heart like one very heavy stack of bricks weighing my tender heart down.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are so many ways my life has improved since, and I’m no longer that broken 21 year old girl with 3 small kids, a mean, drug addicted husband, and carrying around fresh grief, but every hurt I’ve endured since has been added layers. I need to be free of this weight.

So…the answer? I have my first therapy appointment today. It’s time for me to figure out how to let all this pain that I wear like a heavy coat in the heat of summer go. It’s time to love myself enough to heal. You see, I think those of us that go through long term pain in life tend to go back to it, caress it, love it, hold it close because it becomes our comfort. It’s familiar. It’s always there. And life without it can be scary, so we hold ourselves back with it. Well, I’m done with that. I deserve a happy life, so today is my first step in that direction. I may be a single mom, I may be a tender spirit, and I may have been dealt a shitty hand in many ways in life, but I choose to not let any of that hold me back any longer. Today is the day. Today is the day my healing begins.

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Slut Shaming

I’m about to get real with y’all, and here’s your fair warning that I’m going to say some dirty words. I’m hoping you’ll keep reading, though, because this stuff needs to be said and understood by so many out there.

“Slut shaming.”

Have you heard of it? It’s become a catchphrase in our current times that describes the act of putting a woman down for her real or assumed sexual activity. I think most of us are aware of this, but are we aware of how often we are actually doing it? Are we aware of how often we’re hurting someone through comments, looks, and judgments?

A few weeks ago, I saw a meme on Facebook a friend of mine shared that said something about how when a lonely woman goes out to the bar alone and then still goes home to bed alone, she has standards and self-control, or something similar to that. The meme struck a nerve with me for a variety of reasons, but because I try to avoid arguing on Facebook over anything these days, I didn’t say anything. It has stayed with me since though.

When I saw that meme, it was kind of a punch to the gut. I can tell you that there are many, many times I’ve gone out lonely and still come home to bed by myself. I can also say there are times I’ve gone home to someone else’s bed. But, I’ll get back to this part in a moment.

Last night, also on Facebook, I had a friend post a meme that asked something about, “Does your mom know you’re a whore?” I made a joking comment on it, but again, it stayed with me. This morning, when there were several more comments on it, I commented again, “But is being a “whore” really the worst thing one can do? Like, I’m an amazing, caring, generous, kind person, and my life goal is to help others. But I could also be sleeping with half of our little town right now. Does that trump everything and make me a bad person?”

I want you to think about this for a moment. How often have you said words like whore, slut, skank, hoochie, tramp, etc.? How many times have you given a dirty look to someone because of what she was wearing or because you’d heard. . .*insert “slutty” accusation here*? How many times have you dismissed everything human and good about a woman because of slut shaming judgement? Now, before you get too defensive and feel like I’m picking on you, let me tell ya, I’m just as guilty (if not more so) than the next person. I will be the first to tell you, I have been wrong here. The craziest part about that too though, is *gasp* I have also been the “slut.”

I have had broken moments in my life. I talked about this in I Am More Than My Cleavage. I’ve had moments where I’ve used my body to get the attention my heart needed. Sadly, many women have done this, especially if they had a rough childhood. Some of us that have been through really hard times have turned to physical affection as a source of comfort and fulfillment in our own brokenness. We try to fill a void in our hearts through physical contact as if being desired magically fixes everything.

While this is kind of a hard subject to talk about, it’s even harder to bare one’s own “secrets” and stories. But I’m going to do it anyway. So let me tell you a story.

I had a best friend years ago that I’m no longer friends with. She’s a pretty amazing person, and much of her is all the great things I am not. We were instantly close when we met and she was the first person I ever used the term “bestie” with. We were also very alike in several ways. While we both battled our own hard stuff in life, there started to become a wedge between us. Honestly, I can’t even remember what started it or why, but it got worse. We then both did things that hurt each other. We both said things that were vile and ugly. One of my biggest regrets as far as her and my friendship is concerned was ever using the dirty words mentioned before about her, a woman I truly loved (and still do). She had been by my side when I was making some really poor choices as far as men and sex goes, and yet, once I was in a monogamous relationship, it was like I forgot my own transgressions and no longer had an issue with slinging out those awful words about her choices. Our friendship came to an end, and I still think about her almost every day since. In the couple of years since we went separate ways, I’ve had lots of time to think about my own actions. I’ve tried to reach out to her since, but she has never responded. I can only think that my hurtful words are unforgivable. I’m so embarrassed that I ever insulted her in ways that I’ve been insulted myself. I’m no better than her or anyone else, which brings me to my next and biggest point. . .

The comment that I put on my friends status about “What if…?” is a really good question. How did we get to a point in society where we felt it was okay to judge and mistreat someone we feel is promiscuous? Sadly, a woman doesn’t even have to truly be that way, we can all just be going off of rumors, and yet, most people feel no shame in throwing out those words. Why is it acceptable to make those remarks and joke about it? What makes us feel that someone’s character, goodness, and humanity doesn’t matter and that we can verbally shred a woman over her sexual choices?

I’ll use myself as an example because who better is there to throw under the bus than me. I’m a good person. I have a huge heart, a tender spirit, and I love helping others in any way I can. I would literally give the shirt off my back to someone that was in need of it. I volunteer in my community, have given people in need items out of my own home, drive around with supplies to help the homeless, taken people into my home that had nowhere to go, and put my own safety at risk to help others. I also have made many questionable decisions in life.

If you knew that I’ve slept with someone I’ve met off of Craigslist before, does that change your opinion of me? If you knew that I’ve slept with 2 different men in 2 days, does that change your opinion of me? If you knew that I’ve had sex on first dates, slept with someone else during a breakup to numb my heartache, or that there was a time in my past that I slept with people that I couldn’t tell you their names now, does that change your opinion of me? If all of these things are true, am I a “whore?” By most people’s definition, the answer to that would yes. So now, let’s say that by society’s definition, I’m a whore. Now what? Under that label, am I less deserving or respect? Affection? Love? Am I a bad person? The answer to each of those is no. I am not less deserving, and I am not a bad person. So then why is it okay for you to call me names? Why is it okay for you to look at me and judge who I am as a person based off of a few choices? Read this and understand this carefully please; it is NOT okay for you to treat anyone with less respect, no matter what their sexual choices are with other consenting adults.

Now, please know that I’m not saying that these are healthy behaviors. That’s an entirely different blog topic, and I have caused my own heart a lot of damage with bad choices. However, it’s not ANYONE’S place to decide what is good for another person. It is not my place, nor yours, to judge another human being’s sexual activity with consenting partners. When you take away everything else about a woman and label her regarding her sexual choices only, even if you are just sharing a meme on social media that doesn’t call anyone out specifically, you are telling women that we are nothing more than what our vaginas do. I am more than what happens with my vagina. You are more than what happens with yours. So let’s put some conscious effort into not shaming women for what they choose to do with their own body parts. STOP THE SLUT SHAMING. It’s important.

And as always, stay safe, my friends.

Love,
Moonshine Niki

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Here’s to a New Chapter

Social media is great in many ways, but man, sometimes it sucks! Going through a breakup is one of those times I hate social media, and this time was the worst.

“We can still be friends,” he says as he’s breaking my heart weeks ago and saying he wants to move out.

I cried, “I don’t want to be your friend. I want to be your girlfriend.”

I wanted a piece of him still, even if it meant without a romantic relationship, so I agreed to be friends. I noticed how he’d pulled away suddenly and how his actions were contradicting his words, but I was so lost and confused in the center of the storm that I didn’t consciously think much about it. During the several day period where we were in the middle, in purgatory, with him still living with me after he’d said he wanted to end it, but then changing his mind and saying he wanted to keep trying, everything he was saying was telling me between the lines that he was leaving. Deep down I knew he was gone for good and that someone else had his attention already.

“If it doesn’t work out, I know you’ll be okay. You’re a strong woman.”

“You’ll find someone new who will be your forever, I’m sure of it.”

“I’m just going to focus on me and my kids,” he says, but then one breath later, “You should get out and have fun and meet new people,” and, “Be young and wild and free.”

Why? Why do I need to get out? Why do I need to meet new people? Why are you pushing me out there and then encouraging me to go party of all things? How fast are you moving with someone else to be coming at me with this stuff when you still have belongings that haven’t even been moved out of my house yet?

I’m not stupid. I may have had some serious denial going on and even been foolish for all of my hoping, but I’m definitely not stupid, and I knew exactly what these statements meant. These statements meant there was already another girl. These statements meant he didn’t want to feel guilty and if I quickly found someone else, he wouldn’t have to. I knew this was true because it was only a matter of days before there were flirty statuses going up on Facebook from him that were clearly intended for one person, and it wasn’t me. Wanting to continue with the goal of being friends and knowing it would just take some time to not be so sensitive to that stuff, I simply unfollowed him.

I pushed forward with my life without him. I started working out, I quickly found a support system of just a few friends that I could talk to and rely on, and I started focusing on the important things in my life that had nothing to do with him.

One of my most important tasks was to find a second job. I was terrified of what that could mean for me and scared that I would have to work 7 days a week. I’m a mother and my children, even though they are teenagers, still need me. I have to take care of me to take care of them and it’s hard to take care of me if I never get a day off of work.

Well, there have been some rapid changes over the last few days. One is that I got hired and start working a second job next week. The manager was very kind when I talked with him about the hours I’m looking for and what my schedule is like for my main job. He said he intends to work me 3 evenings a week and understands that I’m still hoping to get one day off a weekend so that I have one day off from both jobs and will work with me on that too.

Another change is that I actually went on a date. It was wonderful. It was with a friend I’ve known for years and he was incredibly sweet and gentlemanly. It was a lovely reminder that I’m still a woman and more than just a mom and employee, that I am desirable, and that I am wanted. I won’t go into details here, but I can say that I’m very much hoping we’ll get together again.

The last change is that yesterday when I was getting ready to start work, I thought to myself that I’m in a great mood and I’m getting over the old relationship and maybe I can look at his Facebook page without getting upset. I was immediately greeted with the confirmation of what I already knew to be true. There’s a new woman. I was taken aback. It’s not that there’s just someone new in general, because I already knew that was the case within days of him moving out, but to already be posting together and putting pictures up. . . I’ll spare you all my thoughts on this, but I will say that I realized in that moment, being friends is unnecessary. Clearly, it doesn’t matter what I think and feel to him and that’s not what friends are. I didn’t cry when I saw it. In fact, I wasn’t filled with any intense emotion (can I get an amen for healing?!), and I was proud in that moment that I wasn’t tempted to lash out at anyone. It was time to take my next big girl step and hit the unfriend button. We weren’t friends before we dated; there’s no need to be friends now. I clicked that button and smiled. Chapter closed.

Waking up today and getting everyone ready and out the door for the first day of school, I have been in an amazing mood. I’m handling my business. I’ve got my own back. I feel happy again! Finding a job took away a ginormous amount of stress. I now know that I have a plan. I know what has to happen to get our necessities covered. I also know that the activity of working another job will help my weight loss along. All of these things will make me feel better emotionally and mentally and once again, confidence will shine through. Just as I mentioned in my post The Weak Hunt the Wounded about how broken people attract more broken people, the opposite is also true. With me feeling great and confident and happy, those are also the people I will attract in my life.

So, my friends, things are good! I’m onto a new chapter and new adventures and I couldn’t be more excited for it. Here’s to a new page turned!

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I Lost Him, But I Found Me

When he first told me he was leaving, I was understandably devastated. I couldn’t believe it and was in total shock. It hurt deeply, and every day since then has hurt. I didn’t think I could live without him. But (and it’s a really big but), I’m doing it! I’m healing a little one day at a time. Where my heart has been pained, I see it sting a little less every day. Where I once couldn’t imagine life without him, I’m getting used to the idea of it. Where I thought I couldn’t be happy without him, I woke up happy today. I wanna cheer! I want to get up and do a happy dance because I didn’t feel strong initially and it took me only a short time to be able to see that I am indeed strong.

You see, I felt like when I was losing him, I was losing me too. Who am I without him? Who am I as just Niki, and not B’s girlfriend? How and what is my life by myself? You know what though? I’m still losing him, but I’m actually finding me! I can’t emphasize this point enough, but keep reading because I’m going to tell y’all how.

So since this all started, I’ve been talking to a few friends about my heartache. One day, one said, “You know what helps? Running.”

I laughed it off and said, “Have you ever seen a picture of me? I’m not going running.”

He assured me, anyone can do it. He gave me the name of an app that even beginners can do. I downloaded the app but then left it for days without doing anything about it. I was being swallowed up by my hurts and just didn’t care about starting. That was on top of my normal issues that get in the way of exercise (especially something hard on my joints). I struggle with chronic pain, I have a busy life, and let’s face it, I’m just really good at making excuses. The idea stayed in the back of my mind though. I even mentioned it to one of my dearest girlfriends (who happens to LOVE fitness and exercise). So on Saturday morning, when I texted her about the anxiety that seems to come in waves right now, she immediately followed up with telling me to get my tennis shoes on and get my booty outside. She told me to use it as fuel, to go until I can’t breathe, and put all of that negative energy to use. So you know what I did? I put on my tennis shoes! She offered to put her kids in a jogging stroller and go with me, so that’s what we did. It may not seem like much, and I definitely didn’t start with jogging, but we power walked 2 miles with much of it being uphill. When we got back, I literally had sweat running. Wanna know something else? It felt so good!!

I kept myself fairly busy the rest of the day and tried to focus on anything other than letting my brain go into overdrive about what I can’t change. I had a planned date on Saturday night with another girlfriend and was happy to get out and do that. Unfortunately, that meant not getting much sleep, and the sleep I did get was poor. But you know what I did when I woke up Sunday morning and could feel sadness and loneliness seeping in? Yep, you guessed it! I put on my tennis shoes! Without my friend this time, I took the dogs around the block, dropped them back off at home, and then did that same 2 mile loop. I pushed myself hard. I got home again covered in sweat and feeling on top of the world.

I went inside and went to get in the shower and paused to look in the mirror. I looked at how red my face was and how my hair was wet from sweat. I looked at my deflating belly that is already noticeably smaller with my breakup weight loss. I stood there and appreciated myself for the first time in I can’t even tell y’all how long. I saw beauty in my face where I’d forgotten it was once there. I saw attractiveness in my body where for several months I’d just been able to see fat. Where my self-esteem had once plummeted dangerously low, I saw and felt my worth for the first time looking in the mirror that day.

In this recent heartache, I’ve had more time on my hands. I’m not rushing anything to spend time with a partner, so I have time to focus. I’ve started lovingly taken care of myself. I take great care in the little things that I’ve previously not done as often or done hastily. I’m taking the time to shave my legs with care, to take good care of my feet, brushing my teeth, washing my body, moisturizing my face, lotioning my skin. Most of these things are obviously things I was doing, but doing them now is different. It’s with love and affection for myself. It’s done slowly and well. All of this is with new exercise and good water intake. I’m not consuming soda (okay, well except for that night out drinking hehe). I’m not consuming junk food. My initial weight loss was from stress, but hey, since it’s started, now I’m going to take it and run with it (literally as I haven’t yet started to actually jog, but I promise, I’m getting there). I deserve to be well cared for and there’s no one better to do it than me.

I lost him, but it’s giving me the chance to find me and make the changes that should have been made a long time ago. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but I’m dedicated to this new self-care thing. It’s about time that I seek no love but my own. So hello, me, I’ve missed you.

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The Figurative Festering Blister

I’ve shot myself in the foot with some of my own actions recently. Here’s the kicker though, while many want to be defensive when they have made not so great choices (which is normal; it’s human nature), I feel it’s extremely important to lay my defenses down in times like this. I feel it’s important and the right thing to do to admit my wrongs with no excuses. This has not been something easy for me to do. I’ve had to make a conscious effort for it and have done better as I’ve gotten older, but it is far from easy. No one wants to look someone else in the face and say, “Yes, I did this, and it was wrong.” It is necessary though.

When someone has felt wronged by you, no matter how slight, it can have an impact. A little splinter to begin with can become infected. It begins to swell, turn red, and get more painful. It festers and begins to produce pus. What started as a tiny sting becomes incredibly tender and painful. You know how you deal with a festering wound that has swelled up? You lance it. For this figurative wound, you lance it by being honest, owning up to what you’ve done, and apologizing. You set a plan for how it will be different because the best apology is changed behavior.

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This is something I had to do this last weekend. I’ve had to acknowledge where I have made mistakes (even though they were made unintentionally) and make things right. I’ve had to really consider my own choices and how I can make better ones. I think that sometimes we may forget how much we all are not the only ones affected by our choices and consequences. Those around us are affected too.

So, my friends, if you’re reading this right now and there’s someone in your heart and mind that you know you’ve wronged in some way, I encourage you to reach out. Admit your mistakes without any excuses, apologize, and then change your future behavior. There is not only healing for the other person, but it’s healing for your own heart too.

We Are Enough

It is crazy to me that I have to say this, but it is not okay to treat women like objects without feelings. Women are more than a pretty (or not so pretty) face walking by you. While I am currently working on a blog post about how women view and treat other women and how the media has an impact on how we feel about ourselves and each other, I had to interrupt my progress on that one to write this similar one.

I had the most disrespectful thing happen to me last night that has happened to me in quite a while. I stopped by the gas station on my way home from work and when I got out of my rig, I heard the noise of people behind me. Naturally, I turned to look for the source. As I turned over my right shoulder, there was a couple in a vehicle next to mine and I made eye contact with the driver. If this would have been then end of it, nothing about this stop would have been noteworthy, but in that split second that we made eye contact, he then barked at me. Yes, you read that right, he barked at me like a dog. I was so shocked that it didn’t even register with me until I was several steps further and around the corner out of sight. As I stood in line to pay for my purchase, I developed a lump in my throat. What made this man feel that it was okay to bark at me like I’m a dog? What made him feel that it was okay to deliver that blow to my self-esteem simply for looking his direction? The mean look in his eye as he did this stayed with me as I pondered his intentional hurtfulness while still in line.

While he obviously did not say anything to me, I took his barking as his way of saying I’m ugly and don’t deserve to look at him. In no way was I “checking him out” or doing anything other than instinctively looking in the direction that I’d heard noise. He didn’t know me or anything about me. And yet, somehow, he felt comfortable insulting me.

Initially, his barking at me stung my feelings. I thought right away about feeling fat and feeling like I don’t have the best clothing lately due to weight gain. I thought about my sloppy ponytail and my muffin top. It was uncomfortable walking back to my rig, and I wanted to rush so that he didn’t have a chance to say anything to me on my way back out. On the drive home though, I thought, I don’t have to let his ugly actions affect me and how I feel about myself! He does not get to have that power!

In American society, we are drowning in media and advertisement exposure. We need perfect hair, skin, and teeth. We need the newest fashions, the best products, and to buy, buy, buy. Advertising is effective because we are now constantly being told we NEED these things to be desirable, to be good women, and to attain unobtainable perfection. We are constantly faced with the photoshopped versions of beauty on every glossy magazine cover, on every clothing website, and even on ads on the side of the city bus.

We can rise above this, ladies. You don’t need to be a consumer to be a good woman, a good partner, a good employee, a good mom, a good sister, or a good anything else. Smile brightly, laugh loudly, and hold your beautiful head up high everywhere you go, because YOU own your beauty and happiness. Don’t let anyone else rob you of it.

While there are mean and hurtful people out in the world, we do not have to let them hold power over us. As women, we have a hard enough time feeling good about ourselves and feeling like we are enough. We deserve to think positively about ourselves. Please don’t let the mean-spirited people of the world steal your happiness and confidence. We deserve to KNOW that we are enough— with every stretch mark, every roll, every varicose vein, and every freckle, mole, & scar.

You. Are. Enough.

I. Am. Enough.

We. Are. Enough.

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The Disowned Devil

Things have been crazy weird lately and I’m not really sure which end is up and which is down. I wrote about finding my biological father’s family in my blog, but on Facebook, I only had said that I met family I’d never known before from my biological father’s side and that I have older siblings. The other night, I received an intense phone call from my grandmother (my mother’s mother). I was answering a call from the high school at the same time as she was calling, so initially it went straight to voicemail. Because I detest listening to voicemails, my recorded message requests that callers hang up and text me.

The voicemail she left started off with her sternly saying, “I will NOT text you. . .” and I knew immediately that things were headed downhill.

“I am SO upset with you right now over this taking up with that puke bastard’s offspring. I wonder if all of them are legal, and if any other people out there have been raped by him. I am FURIOUS.”

Tears instantly sprang to my eyes as I felt the blood drain from my face. I knew there had to be some kind of fallout somewhere from all of this and it looked like I’d found it. I didn’t want to have any confrontation at all, but I didn’t want to disrespect my grandmother by not calling back either. I took a deep breath and redialed.

She began to yell as soon as she answered. She was upset for all that my mother has gone through. She talked about “her baby” and all the bad that she had endured. I tried to defend myself. I tried to explain that I wasn’t looking for a relationship with my father (which is impossible even if I was since he is deceased). I tried to explain how I just wanted information and I didn’t set out to have a relationship with anyone. She didn’t care what I had to say and told me that I have to choose—either them or her.

My grandmother mocked me crying, refused to listen to what I had to say, and then told me, “You know, Niki, you have to think of someone other than yourself for once in your life.”

That touched a nerve. It is very much in me to care about others around me. It is very much in my nature to bend over backwards for others, and I would give the shirt off my back to a stranger if need be. To be told I’m so selfish and need to stop thinking about myself was a slap in the face. On top of just who I am in general, I had agonized over all of this for all involved. I didn’t want to step on my mother’s toes. I haven’t wanted to step on my new siblings toes. I haven’t wanted to stir up negativity. I have spent hours thinking and worrying about it all, thinking about everyone, and thinking about everyone’s feelings.

I ended the phone call there. There was clearly going to be nothing positive from continuing to talk and I was no longer in control of my emotions either. I cried. Hard. During the conversation, my grandmother claimed that my siblings couldn’t be good—they come from the Devil. She refused to acknowledge that they had not done anything at all personally against my mom or anyone else involved. I felt defensive on their behalf, but even more, I felt stunned because if they are bad simply because of their DNA, I must be bad too. I’m his child too. Am I the Devil???

Then, things got even worse when I got on Facebook and saw that my grandmother had commented on the status about finding my siblings. My original post had said, “. . . Most people don’t know that I’ve never known my biological father and that while all the surrounding details aren’t public business, I can say that my heart is truly happy to have found that I have 2 brothers and a sister. . .”

My grandmother commented, “And if all the details were made public who would be so proud. I used to be your grandmother but you go with that new family now and leave me out of your life.”

I was so embarrassed and hurt. That comment had been there for 30 minutes before I saw and deleted it. I didn’t want to delete her from my profile because I was hoping she would just be temporarily upset and would calm down. I’m also not a fan of social media drama and deleting and re-adding people. Less than an hour later though, another comment appeared, “You can go with that my granddaughter but cross me off the list of your family. You know why.”

Again, I deleted the comment and cried some more. I then shared a poem I’d written about being a strong woman, and she then commented beneath that saying, “Bull.”

What was I supposed to do? My own flesh and blood was angry at me. I never in my life thought I could do anything to make my family disown me. Isn’t a parent’s (and grandparent’s) love supposed to be unconditional?

When I was finally feeling like I was starting to recover from the crazy emotional roller coaster of all of this, this event set me reeling again.

I don’t know what is going to happen from here. I don’t know that my grandmother will ever forgive me (even though I feel I’ve done nothing wrong). What I do know though is that I’m going to just continue on with my life. I’ll keep going to work every day, parenting my children every day, and just living life every day with some faith and hope that everything will be just fine. I also will continue on knowing that I am indeed a strong woman, and all of this will be all right.

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*Update: A few months ago, I received a call from my grandmother. She had apparently started to worry that some health problems were maybe going to take her life, and she feared that she could suddenly die with my thinking she hated me. She called to tell me she loves me and that nothing I could ever do would make her not love me. We’ve only talked once since and my heart still feels like it is recovering from this event, but I am grateful to know that she is not standing by her original “we’re no longer family” stance.*

Her Rapist’s Eyes

***Trigger Warning, I’m going to discuss sensitive topics including rape in this post. If that makes you uncomfortable, please do not read further.***

I was conceived in a prison. That’s right, you read that correctly. My life came into existence because my mom was incarcerated (unjustly in my opinion, but that’s another story) and my biological father was a prison guard. In short, I was conceived in rape.

There was no clear, out of the blue moment I remember being told this, it’s just something I’ve known my entire life. In fact, I do remember a moment when I was 5 years old that I wanted my mother to clarify for me what the word “rape” meant. It was understandably a confusing concept to me as I barely understood where babies even came from—and the only reason I knew that was because I was a very bright child and demanded to know how my sister got into my mother’s belly when I was 4.
Rape. It’s an ugly word. It puts a bad taste in one’s mouth. If you’re like me and it’s something you’ve endured yourself, it might be a word that makes your breath quicken and your heart race. If you’re fortunate enough to never have been closely impacted by this act, even then, it’s likely a word that makes you squirm in your seat a little. It’s no easy topic, but it’s one I feel has to be talked about for many reasons. One big one is because people (yes, people, not just women, not just children, all people) that have been victimized deserve to know that it’s okay to talk about it. There is healing in talking and telling one’s story. If we as a society walk around whispering it like it’s a dirty word, it makes it that much harder for those that have suffered to find peace. It’s not the “f bomb,” it’s real life; it doesn’t need censored.
Now, my mother has never been fond of talking about that time in her life, and I understand that, but there came a point for me where I really started to question what had gone on and I wanted answers. This became especially true when I got married and my mom gave me my birth certificate and for the first time, she explained to me that I could not lose it. She told me that when paternity was established in court, my birth certificate was revised to add “him” to the father line (super confusing considering the method of my conception), but when that happened, they (whoever “they” are) also changed my last name on the birth certificate from the one I was born with to his last name. She told me that she never went through the court system to change it back since she had the original; therefore, if I lost it and had to purchase a new one, it would have his last name. This really sparked my curiosity. **In case you’re curious, I did lose it. I went to order a new one, and it does say his last name. I now have to go to court and pay a fee to have it amended.**
After that point, I started really considering finding him, but I was afraid. What all did he know about me? Did he want to know me? Did he have other kids? Did they all hate me because of my existence disrupting their lives? Would he ever face me? What if………?
When I started wondering these things, it was before the Internet was as easy to use as it is now. I started actively looking and calling phone numbers in 2002. I knew only his first and last name and a couple of states that he’d lived in over the years. I had no success, and so it was put on the back burner for a long time after that, and yet, it was always in my mind still. Thirteen years passed before I decided to try something to find him again. I paid a private investigation company to find him. I gave them the details I did have, gave my debit card info, and then waited. Within days I had an email. I was given what the company thought was his address, the names, addresses, and Facebook account links of his 3 children, and the phone number for the youngest child.
I immediately checked out his kids’ Facebook profiles in search of at least a picture of him. I couldn’t see much info, and so I started thinking about how I should reach out. Should I Facebook message them? Should I send a letter? Should I call? What should I say? And it was in that panic of not being sure of what to do that I let that info just sit for almost a year. It was only just over a week ago that I finally decided to just send off a Facebook message and see what would happen. I said:
“Hello, XXXX,
I hope you see this message in your “other” box. I’ve had your Facebook contact info for almost a year but I’ve been afraid to reach out. I’m looking for information (especially medical history) and hopefully some pictures of XXXXXX. He is my biological father, making you my half sibling. I’ve never had any real info and I’ve been nervous to ask. I don’t want you guys to shun me or shut me out. I’m extremely nervous sending this, but figure tomorrows are never promised and I might as well try. Please feel free to contact me here or email me at XXXXXXXXXXXXXX.
Thank you.”
I sent the message knowing it would be difficult for them to see it because of the settings with messages from strangers, so when I knew the messages hadn’t been read by the time I’d left work that day, I knew I was going to use the one phone number and just call. I stopped by the liquor store and decided it was totally appropriate to have a shot of whiskey before taking a deep breath and dialing.
Two rings, “Hello?” I felt sudden panic and was shocked at someone actually answering an unknown number (I didn’t even know other people still do that these days).

“Hi, um, I’m not sure how to really say this, I don’t know if you’re aware of me; I’m XXXXX’s daughter.”

There was some shock on the other line and lots of “Um’s” in the middle. His son explained to me that he was indeed in shock, but aware of me and asked to call me back. I totally understood his being blindsided by this and told him to go ahead and process and call me back later.

“But wait, can you tell me really quick, is he still alive?”

“No, I’m sorry, he passed away last year.”

I cried. I started crying before I even got off the phone. I hung up and cried hard. I cried body shaking sobs over this information. I felt instant grief. Not grief over my loss as one would feel over the death of a parent he or she knew, but grief simply over this missing piece of my personal puzzle. Grief over the fact I never got to face him. I never got to ask him any questions. I never got to hear his side of the story. I never got to know if he was sorry for what he put my mother through or the impact it had on me. I never got to know if he was sorry that he never reached out to me. I never got to know if he truly understood the pebble in the pond my birth was and how much I’d suffered for HIS actions. I never got to look into his eyes and ask anything at all.

I walked back into my house after I hung up and poured another shot and then stood in the kitchen just holding it and bawling. My poor teenage boys had no real idea what was going on. My children, whom are extremely connected to me and my emotions, jumped into action and immediately came to me. My oldest hugged me tight for a few seconds while I proceeded to cry harder. When he let go and I was still standing there doing the ugly cry, my younger son then came and grabbed me with such intensity, I was surprised. He held on even tighter while whispering comfort in my ear.

I was shocked at my own reaction. I had no idea I’d feel so intensely. I had no idea it would hurt me to my very core. I had had a feeling when I was driving home from work that night that I was going to find out he had already passed away as I knew he was in his late 70’s, but I was unprepared to hear it for certain. I literally cried without stopping for more than an hour. Then, for the next several hours, I cried at the drop of a hat. And just when I thought I’d pulled myself together, my biological brother called me back.

We talked for 30 minutes and in that first phone call, I could tell that I liked him already. He was open, honest, and tender. He told me facts I’d been wanting to know my entire life. He told me that he thought that his (eww, our) father had had an affair with my mother. We discussed how even if it was consensual (a claim my mother adamantly denies, and I believe her), the law is very black and white on this topic. When being employed as a prison guard, it is illegal to have a sexual relationship with an inmate. Much like a “willing” teenager with an adult, it is considered rape, and for good reason. It was then that he told me something that was incredibly dear to me; he told me that no matter what the circumstances were, he was embracing our newfound relationship and that he is there for me. I then cried some more.

That night on Facebook I wrote, “Those moments. . .those moments that knock the air from your lungs. . .the moments that punch your heart with the force of a Mack truck. . .the moments that hurt so intensely you don’t know when you’ll come up for a breath between sobs. . .I hate those life moments. I feel a MAJOR blog post coming on.” That blog post I spoke of is this here.

***

In the time that has passed since that first day, I’ve had so much on my mind. I can’t help but think about what my mother went through. My heart hurts for her. I can’t imagine it’s easy for her knowing that I’ve reached out to his family. I know that she just wants me to have peace. I can also imagine that me revealing what I’ve done to get in contact with them has probably also brought up old feelings for her.

Unfortunately, I don’t really get to know what she is thinking and feeling because we’re not very close and we don’t talk much.

Because of the situation surrounding my conception, we never bonded like normal mother and child. She remained in prison after I was born and I went off to foster care. The first 2 years of my life are something I know almost nothing about. But even once my mother was “free,” she was never really free. She endured hell and then had a child to take care of in the center of that. I love my mom, but her entire situation was damaging and had an impact on everything about me. The foundation I had in life set me up for failure–and oh boy have I failed (there are plenty of old and future blog posts about that, so I’ll skip over that here). But I don’t blame my mom. She lived through a really shitty situation and she came out of it the only way she knew how to. She chose to give me life even when the prison tried heavily to convince her to have an abortion. She kept me and later told me that it didn’t have to matter that I was conceived in such a manner, I could be just hers. Sadly, it did matter, it still does, and it will matter the rest of my life.

Through all of this though, I have a newfound respect for my mom. One of my first requests of my brother was to see pictures of “him.” I was simply curious to know what he looked like. Because I look so much like my mother, I never thought there would be any physical resemblance. Within a couple days, my brother sent me some emails with several pictures. I was totally unprepared, and when I opened an obviously old photo of his wedding, I found myself staring at a male version of my own face. It took my breath away and tears again sprang to my eyes (for like the millionth time in the last couple weeks) because I was looking at my own eyes in this old photograph. Once I’d gotten over the initial shock, I again thought of my mother. This woman, this incredibly strong woman, raised me as best as she could, she loved me, and she disciplined me–all while looking at a child, her child, who has her rapist’s eyes.

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***

Side note: When I started writing this blog post two weeks ago, it was meant to be about “him” and I. It’s turned into a complicated post, but more about my mom than anyone else. My mom is exactly where I get my strength from. She is where I’ve gotten my independence, my strong will, and my courage. Ladies and gentlemen, my mother is a regular badass, and I’m proud to call her my mom.

Thrivin’ Survivor, That Is Me

*Repost from old blog site*

You’d think that knowing that I am strong, plus surviving some of the hardest things one could experience in life would automatically make me fearless, right? Wrong.

I’m facing a breakup. Lord knows that isn’t easy. After almost 3 years of dedication, 2 sets of children, and 1 combined household, I’m pretty much dreading “the talk” happening. How is that though? How is that so scary when I have been through so much—and survived?!

I’ve been sexually abused multiple times since I was a kid. I have had children as a teenager, gotten married a week after I turned 17 to a man that turned into a raging, abusive drug addict, and endured several years of mental, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse during that marriage. I have watched my then husband overdose, almost die, and recuperate—only to watch it happen all over again. I have battled chronic pain more than half my life that is at times crippling. I have held my infant daughter as her life support was turned off and she took her last breath, battled CPS, and pieced my life back together after meth. I have gotten through being homeless, jobless, and broke. I have battled court systems. I have battled people that wish me harm. And I have battled my own inner demons.

Nothing quite feels as terrifying as one’s husband hitting her in a rage, making her fear and know her life is in danger. Nothing feels as heartbreaking as laying one’s child on a hospital bed and turning away knowing one will never get to pick her baby up again and smell her scent, feel her warmth, nurture her at her breast, or hear her sweet cry again. Nothing is as hard as having to fight for one’s children against a government agency with a vendetta. And yet, I’ve been through all of that and survived and come out on top. I’ve not just survived, but I have thrived!

Even with that being the short list, I’m reading back over it and now sitting here wondering, how the hell am I afraid of a little breakup??? I need to just face it head on. Ready, set, go. 3, 2, 1, takeoff. Get it done, woman. There’s no way in hell that this is what suddenly breaks me! I am STRONG! I am powerful! I am woman—HEAR ME ROAR!!