How Giving Feeds the Soul (even if it's inconvenient at times)

Illness, death and injury can be seen as HUGE diversions from the things we should be doing and can create resentment.  I suggest that perhaps being of service when our family, friends and community needs us does more good than harm.  Service feeds the soul.

Happy March everyone!  Can you believe that it is already the third month of the year?! It has been a crazy couple of months for me.  I’ve implemented Patreon into my art business in order to build a private community around art and personal development (click here for more info) and today marks the opening of my very first 30 Day Pop Up Sale on my website where I’m offering limited edition art prints, tote and beach bags and throw pillows.  March’s theme is taken from my Pelicans painting. 

I was hoping to have awesome photos to share with you from the last Surfrider Foundation beach cleanup and in reflection, write a blog about being of service.  However, life has not cooperated with me and my best laid plans for the beginning of 2018 have not happened quiet the way I thought they would.  Normally, that would have pissed me off royally.

In truth, I can’t believe that I have launched both my Patreon community and my first quarterly Pop Up Sale on time.  The first week of this year, I worked hard and focused.  I made these two new programs my priorty…but then I got sick.  I was laid up for a week.  Not much I can do about getting sick, so I took the week to focus on my health.

The next week I was ready to dive in again!  Full steam ahead!  And then I got a call from one of my oldest and dearest friends.  Her mom had passed very suddenly and unexpectedly.  So, I was on a plane to New Orleans to help in any way I could.  I was there for about a week.

When I got home, I was ready to rock and roll!  I worked for about 3 weeks, hard and fast to make up for lost time…and then my daughter got the flu.  I kid you not, I have never seen her so miserable.  She was sick and out of school with fever for a full week. 

To those of you who may say “Hey that last one isn’t a problem!  You work from home!” you either don’t have children or you’ve never had to take care of a sick one.  I was either cooking, cleaning, running a bath, disinfecting, doing laundry, rubbing her head, dishing out medicine and fending off the junk myself (because I’m not going down this time!), and trying to work in between all of these tasks.  I became completely behind and missed the beach clean-up because of the flu.  It’s no one’s fault.  It’s just life. 

The day she was well enough to leave the house, I woke with a crick in my neck that hurt so bad, my mobility was effected.  My husband had to help me do things like put my hair in a ponytail and trying to get a hoody on made me weep.  So, painting was out….and I had a commission due to a client by the end of February. 

Interruptions, distractions, emergencies are all things that can divert our routines.  Instead of becoming frustrated, perhaps we can look at these things as a way to give back.

Marigny Goodyear Art air travel protectionFresh off the Flu and onto the plane to New Orleans. I would have never chosen to travel that close to being sick, but wachyou gonna do?

 

In my past life, all of this would have blindsided me and my work flow so badly that I immediately would have gotten frustrated and inevitably, contentious feelings would have grown towards all of these people and problems that were stopping me from doing what I wanted to be doing.  Resentments y’all…no fun at all. 

That was the old Marigny.

The new Marigny celebrated her 5th alcohol free year on February 28th.  Yup, yesterday was my sober "birth" day. 

When I first was in recovery for alcoholism, I had to shed my old belief system 100%.  And while that topic is large enough to have its very own blog post, one of most important things I had to admit to myself is that my thinking came, in general, from a very selfish place.  I did a lot for others, but always with the expectation of getting something in return and when I didn’t get it, I would get really angry.  I was, of course, oblivious to this selfishness and when I figured it out, I was shocked and truly disappointed in myself.  

I discovered that a solution to this problem is to be of service to others.  At first, I tried to cram in ways to volunteer into my already packed and over scheduled life.  Recovery takes a lot of time and effort and sometimes it all felt very overwhelming.

But I realized something…being of service doesn’t always have to be applied to the food bank or the SPCA.  Although I have tried to involve myself more in my local Surfrider chapter because I’m passionate about surfing and my love for the ocean,  I realize that the most important people to be in service to are my family and friends.

These are the people in my life who have stood by me during my volatile times, the aftermath of those times and my journey to sobriety, my depressed states and my daily anti-anxiety rituals.  Why shouldn’t these be the people that I willingly and happily give my time and energy to?

Being of service takes me out of myself.  By helping those who are in need, I contribute to a larger part of life...the part that doesn't revolve around me.

Spiritually, I believe that there is nothing else that feeds the soul like being of service.  It takes me out of myself in a way that nothing else does.  As any and all activities that are good for me, service work never really sounds like that much fun.  I don’t mean to sound like an asshole or anything, but do you think that cleaning up trash or taking care of a miserable and grumpy teenager sounds enjoyable?  What about going to the aid of a mourning family?  Good times these are not.

But when I go to the clean ups and see all of the people that care for our beach, the “chore” becomes a bonding experience and ultimately brings me closer to my community and to the Ocean.  

After my kiddo’s fifth day of fever and third meltdown over not being able to hang out with friends on the long President’s Day weekend, I thought I would lose it.  I was looking at the painting that is due by the end of the month and felt panic rising, but then she looked at me and said, “Thanks for taking care of me, Mom.  I love you.”

When I went to see my friend’s father, who had just lost his wife, he just grabbed me and hugged me and thanked me so much for being there for him and especially for his daughter during such a terrible time.  

I realized that I sacrificed my work and plans for her, for him, for my people…because I’m a person and people contribute and take care of their villages when it’s their turn to do so. That’s what I choose and I can feel proud that I’m doing what a good person does and I’m doing it without pitching a fit because I know that in the long run, taking care of my people is good for my soul.  

Marigny Goodyear mixed media abstract art studio longhornsI swear to God my art table looked exactly like this for about 2 weeks.  It is a dern miracle that the longhorns commission was done on time.

Did my daughter take me for dinner to thank me for my “lost” week or treat me to a spa day because my body hurt after all the care taking?  Nope.  What I got in return is love from her and the comfort of knowing that she is cared for. 

The old me would have been fuming inside from all the inconveniences.  The 5-year alcohol free me is just happy to be able to be home with my daughter to be her nurse, rent movies and make food that she may or may not eat.  The sober me didn’t even think twice before jumping on a plane to help my friend.  And the community minded me didn’t cry about not being there for the cleanup (and, let’s be honest, to surf afterwards). 

And guess what…all of my work got done on time anyway.  If I would have had a fit, it would have been out of a projection of fear.  Fear that the shit wasn’t going to get done and that I was going to be a failure.  That was my old mind set.   Instead, I just shrugged and said, “Not much can be done about the flu, or death, or a crick in my neck.  It is what it is.”

I’m really excited about Patreon and my Pop Up Sale and about the next beach cleanup, but in the end, I am content knowing that I can parent without having severe FOMO (fear of missing out).  I can be here for my family because I want to be, not because I feel obligated to. 

I must admit that it makes me a little sad to think that’s how my brain use to work.  I felt like my family was holding me back from whatever the hell I thought I should be doing.  Now I know that it’s my family that lifts me up and it’s my community that holds me and makes me feel part of something.  

I don’t normally like to give advice, but here’s 2 cents from a sober drunk.  When you feel really bad about yourself, when life just sucks and you want to crawl in a hole, do something for someone else.  Spend an entire day dedicated to your child’s interests.  Grab a coffee with your Mom.  Make a surprise romantic dinner for your spouse.  Show love, Y’all.  I want my road to be paved with love, not money or number of paintings created.  Love.  It’s really all that matters and indeed, all we need.

And FYI - a percentage of the profits from my 2018 Pop Up Sales will go to Surfrider Foundation for ocean clean up and coastal health awareness.  There are always ways to give.  So go do it.

The painting at top is Stampede 36x36 and was commissioned by Taqueria Picaro in Ashland, OR. (And I completed it on time.)

Join my community and be part of the Artventure!
 

Leave a comment:

Other articles:

What To Do When Your Head Falls Off

When there are so many things to do, that I can no longer keep track...well...you know what they say about the chicken and its head?   I'm pretty sure my head just fell off.

I have a list of things to do.  Ok...that's a lie.  I have five lists of things to do.  I am excellent at making lists.  I make a list and then divide those list items into their own sub-lists.  When I finish something that wasn't on the original list, I add it and simultaneously put a check mark by it.  I have a "master" to do list, then my daily to do list, which I make each morning organized into quadrants: important/time sensitive, important/not time sensitive, not important/time sensitive and not important/not time sensitive.

I am a huge dork.

I'm not completely anal-retentive, just a little OCD, and I've made peace with that.  As one who can fall prey to anxiety, it just plain makes me feel better to have everything put into manageable lists.  Oh...and project management software...and I've been known to rock a good spreadsheet out.   So maybe I have more than my share of organizational tools, but hey, it works for me.  

marigny goodyear art quadrant to do listAn example of my quadrant to do list, which I make first thing, every morning.

I am a huge dork that gets shit done.

I'm sure you're wondering where the hell this topic is coming from, so here's a little context:  I had a whirlwind of emotional months leading up to the Kavanaugh hearings which sparked my letter, I Was a Promiscuous Teen: An Open Letter to All the Men from My Past, which as you are most likely aware of by now, went viral.  The aftermath brought correspondence from people all over the world who shared with me their thoughts on the topic, and stories from their own pasts.

Last week, I told you how I escaped to Las Vegas for a break.  I worked my butt off prior to leaving and finished 35 little Reclaimed Heart paintings, which I'm going to offer during my locals' holiday sale, and my December online Pop Up Shop.

When I got back to the studio last Tuesday, I rocked out 10 more paintings, dealt with the printing of thousands of note cards, and have been working down my holiday art sale check list as well as my art pop up shop check list, my show marketing check list and my media check list (because I'm still trying to increase the reach of my letter)... And then my head fell off.

marigny goodyear art all the lists
Five lists plus project management software = efficiency...until my head falls off.

I am a huge dork, who gets shit done and then needs to stop and cry.

After taking care of the to do item, "print out point of sale check list", and started to work on my inventory and pricing check list, I took a break to watch a video on Facebook with the caption, "a real tear jerker".  Well, that was the end of me.  I was ugly crying in front of the computer complete with gasping and snotty snorts. It was at that point I realized that my head had fallen off about 3 lists ago and I had been on efficiency autopilot ever since, which entails completing tasks now and asking questions later.

I am a huge dork, who gets shit done and needs to stop and cry in order to realize that I what I really need is to go surfing.

I know, I know...I'm a slave to the wave.  It's a beautiful yet sometimes inconvenient thing.  I haven't been in the water for just about over 2 weeks now.  It's about my max before I get squirrelly.  I know myself well enough to know that if I don't stop mid-day for a walk outside, I actually become less efficient in the afternoon.  It's the same with surfing.  I need to get into the ocean and stop the hamster wheel in my head for a minute.  When I get back, I know I'll be twice as efficient, plus my head will be attached, once again. 

Sometimes I just have to take a step back to re-energize and gain fresh perspective.  I can get totally sucked into my lists and can feel like I'm not accomplishing enough.  The fact is I accomplish more in one day than many do in a week.  It will never be enough for me though, so I have to force the break.  (And frankly, going to Las Vegas, while it was an amazingly fun time, is not the same kind of break as being in the ocean...go figure.) 

I am one who works best in spurts.  When I'm in work mode, not much will stop me from completing what I feel I need to.  When I'm in the ocean, all of the lists melt away and the stress dissipates. That feeling of letting go will stay with me for about 2 weeks.  That is just my work flow. As one who is fairly new to working from home, it has taken me nearly 2 years to figure this out and to stop beating myself up about taking a day to surf.  It's just a freakin' day!  

The holidays are a stressful time. No matter how much joy they bring, they can also bring overwhelm.  We need to make sure to give ourselves a break this holiday season in order to practice good self-care.  So, take care of yourself and do what you can to keep your head on. I had a little bit of a hard time finding mine this go round, so I recommend being proactive about it.

The lists will still be here when I get back, plus, I know that there is pie to look forward to next week.  So I'll surf tomorrow and then work my ass off again until Thanksgiving. Then pie...  Then a holiday sale...  Then an online pop up shop... Then Christmas...Ho Jeez.  Surfs up!  

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram.   Join me on this crazy beautiful Artventure to receive early access to my December Pop Up Shop, where I'll be offering some paintings from my Reclaimed Hearts series, one of which is seen at top. 

 

 

 

 

 

Las Vegas: An Extreme Change of Pace and Million Dollar Vomit

After a month of humbling, comforting and saddening correspondence regarding my letter: I Was a Promiscuous Teen: An Open Letter to All the Men from My Past, I simply needed a break.

Two weeks ago, I was still spinning from the reaction to my letter.  I went from being silent about my own issues as a promiscuous teen to vocalizing my experience to the world.  The response was staggering.  All of a sudden, I became a person that other women felt safe revealing their own secrets to.  I was told of others' similar promiscuous behaviors and stories of horrifying sexual assaults.  

While I was discovering that I wasn't alone, so were many others who read my letter.  All of a sudden, a veil was lifted and I became a safe ear for women to tell their own deep, dark secrets to.  I want to say, that I am glad to be that ear and I will gratefully continue to listen and receive.  However, it was WAY intense and something that I was not prepared for because, frankly, I thought that what I went through was kind of unique.  Man, was I wrong.

I was talking to my husband one afternoon and told him about the turn that all of this had taken.  I told him through tears that I was, "ready to think about nothing but unicorns and puppies for a minute."  His response was, "You should come with me to Las Vegas next week".  He had a trip planned that originally, I was not going to join him.  I'm not much of a gambler but a getaway with my man, a nice dinner and a show sounded like a good distraction.  

And so off we went.  My first discovery about Las Vegas was the amount of incredible art that is there!  I wandered through massive hotels, each one trying to out do their neighbors with spectacle.  I saw works by Henry Moore, Julian Schnabel, Frank Stella and James Turrell, just to mention a few.  The Chihuly installation in the Bellagio took my breath away, not to mention the amazingly explosive fountains out front. Wowsers.

There were so many choices of places to eat that I told my Hubbie that I wish I had four stomaches.  However, the eating came to an abrupt end when I got food poisoning that reared it's ugly head half way through my truffle tasting menu at the very fancy Le Cirque restaurant.  Thank God their five star bathroom is a single stall so no one else was subjected to my five star vomit.  

I must admit that I felt a twinge of guilt not checking my email to see if I had new correspondence from women who might have been waiting for a response. Also, it was very hard to see the billboards on trucks that advertised "Hot Babes Direct to You", rolling by every time I went to cross the street.  All of the women who reached out to me were still very much on my mind.  Now that I'm aware of the hardships that women have to endure, it is difficult to ignore it, especially when it was being shoved in my face on the back of a pick up truck.  

Now I'm back at work.  I'm in full preparation mode, making new art for the holidays and getting ready for my holiday pop up shop.  I can't help wonder if I'll ever be able to go back to just talking about painting and art and surfing and the ocean.  How do I revert back now that I'm being turned to as a person with a voice on the topic of sexual assault?  It seems insensitive to just change topics all together.  Honestly, it seems insensitive to be talking about the woes of Le Puke at Le Cirque.  

I suppose the only thing I can do is to just keep doing what I've been doing which is talking about my truth, my artistic process and the things I do to keep myself sane.  Last week, it was Las Vegas.  This week it's getting caught up on work and next week, hopefully I'll get some surfing in.  I guess I'll just take a lesson from my past and take everything one day and one topic at a time.  In the mean time, here is some eye candy from Vegas.  If you're having a rough day, I hope it distracts you with a brief moment of nothing but beauty and amazement.

Thanks for being here.  I hope I don't make all of this sound like a burden.  It's not.  I'm so grateful to be here with you.  

Marigny Goodyear Art Las VegasJust a HUGE dancing woman aside my hotel. For scale, my husband was standing up beneath her foot a second before this photo was taken.

Marigny Goodyear Art Chihuly Bellagio
The Chihuly installation as you walk in the Bellagio is stunning.  
Marigny Goodyear Art Chihuly Bellagio Las Vegas
Here's a close up of the Chihuly.  It was so vibrant and alive.
Marigny Goodyear Art Vending Machine
Yup...in Las Vegas, art comes out of vending machines.  
Marigny Goodyear Art new york new york las vegas
No, not New York, but the New York New York hotel on the Las Vegas strip.
Marigny Goodyear Art Desert Mermaid
I found the mermaids in the desert.  They greet you when you enter the Mirage.
Marigny Goodyear Art Le Cirque Bellagio fountains. 
Our five star view from our table at Le Cirque.  I got to enjoy it for a second.  The photo at top is me under the big top at Le Cirque.  Million dollar vomit happened shortly after that photo was taken.  So freakin' embarrassing.
 

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram.   Join me on this crazy beautiful artventure to receive early access to my December Pop Up Shop where I'll be offering some paintings from my Reclaimed Hearts series, inspired by the power I took back by publishing my letter, I Was a Promiscuous Teen: An Open Letter to All the Men from My Past.

Forgiveness, Acceptance, and the Crazy Path to Getting There

It has been two weeks since my essay, I Was a Promiscuous Teen: An Open Letter to All the Men from My Past, went viral, and I have experienced a serious internal shift.

Two weeks ago, I shared my biggest secret with the world, and a change has occurred within me.  I feel different. I look in the mirror and I look different to myself.  I'm not sure I can give this change a name, but I can give you a few examples of what's happening:

 

I stopped crying.  I cried multiple times a day, everyday, in the month leading up to my essay.  The day I posted it, I was in tears as I hit the publish button, and then again each time someone commented, shared or sent me a message.  As the support came in and women started sharing their own stories, I knew that I had done the right thing.  I cried a little here and there over the days that followed, but then, all of a sudden, I stopped.  Maybe I was just cried out, but I don't think so.  

Something happened within me when the men started sending me messages.  They were saying the most beautiful, supportive things to me, and they were expressing gratitude to have new tools to use while talking to their own children.  All of my hesitation and fear lifted.  The men had my back and the women were holding me in their arms.  I, for the first time in my life, felt like I had a place in the world and that all the fear that I had been holding onto had actually stopped me from truly engaging with life, and that time was over. 

My anxiety is easier to shut down than it used to be. My normal run of the mill anxiety attacks were like slow rolling trains.  They started slow and gained speed over a day or two and then barreled down upon me. It would take everything in my arsenal to get them to go away.  Usually that would mean a few days of practicing extreme, disciplined self care before the train would finally crawl to a stop.  

Now, I'm finding that when the anxiety creeps in, I am quickly reminded that I have already told my deepest darkest secret.  There is nothing left to hide from.  There are no other skeletons remaining for people to find out.  That thing that I was the most afraid of, and felt the most shame around, is out.  Not only am I being supported, but I'm being told that I am not alone and that I don't have to feel shame anymore.  As soon as I remember that, the anxiety lifts and I am left with a clarity that I have never felt prior.

The trolls don't bother me. These fuckers. I am one of the most sensitive people I know, who has historically taken EVERYTHING personally.  One reason I was terrified to share my secret is that I wasn't sure that I would be able to handle any negative feedback that I received.  In the past two weeks I have been called a whore, told that I am the worst kind of person, and that I've most likely already ruined my daughter's life. 

Funny thing is that I DON'T GIVE A SHIT.  The trolls actually make me laugh because they think they're hurting me.  The fact is, what they have been throwing at me is nothing compared to the horrible way that I used to talk to myself.  Sorry trolls...you haven't even scraped the surface of what my self-hate sounded like.  Good luck topping that.  

"The men had my back and the women were holding me in their arms."

As cliche as it sounds, I feel lighter, as if a weight has been lifted.  Fear has been greatly reduced.  Negative self talk has stopped.  Sure, I still feel doubts about my decision, but I realize that is just habitual fear creeping in.  When I think about my new found clarity and the response to my essay from others, that fear dissipates.  

We've all heard before that the truth will set you free, and I think I believed that.  I mean, once I admitted to being an alcoholic, I felt what power the truth can have.  But this feeling...it's as if the root of all my anxiety and self loathing was revealed.  It had been hiding deep inside me, entangled in a jungle of denial, humiliation and complacency.  All I had to do was tell that part of myself that it was ok to come out. Maybe over the past five years since I quit drinking, I have been building up the strength.  I'm not sure.  It was just time.

There have been moments in life when everything shifts, and an internal power is shown.  I have been given permission to reclaim my power and now, that power is creating change. I am finally getting to know my true self, and for the first time, I am able to understand and forgive myself.  I realize the root of my feeling like I could never do enough and that everything was always my fault, was based on me feeling that I was 100% responsible for my promiscuity during my teen years.  Crazy, huh?

I would like to say that I believe I do hold some responsibility for my past behaviors, but I have worked very hard, for quite a while, to understand what exactly that means and how I can make amends.  I now know that the person I needed to make amends with the most, was myself.  My essay was the path for me to do that.

And now, I am feeling verklempt, and so for the first time in a few weeks, I shall excuse myself for a good cry.  This time it's tears of joy, freedom and gratitude. The other kind of tears have had their time and that time is over now.  I will not waste anymore time talking to myself like I'm a horrible person.  I will no longer sit and feel as though I am the most worthless person in the room, all the while hiding behind a smile and feeling afraid that I'm going to be "found out".  No more will I think to myself that I don't deserve anyone or anything good in my life.  That's all bullshit.  I am finally welcoming myself to my life.  It's about time I showed up.  

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram.   Join me on this crazy beautiful artventure to receive early access to my December Pop Up Shop where I'll be offering some paintings from my Reclaimed Hearts series, one of which is seen above (in progress).  

Reclaiming My Broken Heart

My blog post, I Was A Promiscuous Teen: An Open Letter to All the Men from My Past  has gone viral, and the response has been intense.

"Thank you for publishing my story."

"You are me."

"You just wrote my story.  Thank you for putting it into words." 

"Are you sure you're not me?"

These are some of the comments that I am getting from women ALL OVER THE WORLD.  As of today, 10/19 at 4:50pm PT, my letter has been viewed over 123,000 times in 187 countries.  Women are thanking me for articulating feelings that have been tormentingly wordless.  A church in Arizona is making is a educational brochure from it for their members.  It is being shared in grief and PTSD groups.  Wow.

And the men!  Oh the men!  Here are a few of their comments and messages:

"I have been talking clearly to my own boy.  Your words here add so much to the conversation."

"Your story gives me a perspective to share with [my daughters] I could never give them on my own." 

"It has caused me to think about how and when I will talk to my kids." 

I take great comfort in the women's reactions in that I know I am, and never was, alone.  However, I find great sadness that this is a weight that we have all had to bare for so long.  The messages from the men give me hope that change can be made. 

Other topics of conversation have also been brought up.  I have had one man question his own defensiveness to my letter and another who shared that he was bullied in high school for not pressuring girls to have sex. I have had women say that what I'm implying is that only men can have sex for pleasure, while women have to have love.  One thing is obvious...there are a million avenues of discussion surrounding this topic that we could go down.  

Right now, I'm pretty humbled, overwhelmed, exhausted and excited about the attention that my letter has received...and it doesn't seem to be slowing down.  In fact, that number just keeps moving faster every day.  Yesterday it hit 31,000 views just for the day.  Today, it's on target to pass that.  Just incredible.

I began a new series of paintings yesterday.  Starting with torn hearts that I plan on reassembling on canvases.  I truly feel as though I have reclaimed my heart and my power, and I no longer feel terrified of this part of my past.  Although, I must admit that me being known best for what I once saw as the most humiliating part of myself is the Universe operating on a whole new level of irony.  

We need to keep talking, sharing our secrets and burdens.  It is time to let go of the self loathing, self blame and humiliation.  If I had any doubt before, I now know that we are not alone and I am positive that speaking our truths really does lead to freedom for ourselves and real change in our world.  Freedom is ours.  Let's take it.

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram.   Join me on this crazy beautiful artventure. 

I Was A Promiscuous Teen: An Open Letter to All the Men From My Past

From the time I was 13 on, I was a promiscuous teen. 

I’d like to say that at some point I learned from my mistakes, but after these last couple of weeks, my past came barreling back into the forefront of my brain and it is clear to me that the behaviors I learned in my teens never really ended.  They went with me into my 20s, 30s, my marriage, how I parented my daughter.  It’s all right there in front of me now.  Like a glaring light that I just realized has been on and blinding me my whole life. 

 

Dear All the Men from My Past,

 

Before your instinct to defend yourself kicks in, it is important for you to know that I don’t blame all of you.  I have no desire to live in anger or point fingers.  That is not the purpose of this letter. 

 

Please read the above sentences twice…a few times maybe.  It’s 100% true.  However, do not confuse my desire to live at peace free from anger as my saying that you are negate of any responsibility…there are many of you who I do blame and hold responsible. 

 

Some of you took advantage of a young girl with a substance abuse problem.  Some of you were older and thought because I looked and acted older than I was, that it was ok to have sex with me.  At least that’s what you said to me:  “You’re so mature.”  Is that how you justified yourself?  Truth is I’m not too sure what would make an 18-year-old have sex with a 13-year-old, or a 19-year-old with a 14-year-old, or a 24-year-old with a 15-year-old.  Does it matter to you what the age differences are?

 

Or those of you who took advantage of me when I was completely inebriated.  Mornings when I woke up in an empty bed without pants on, not even really sure who had been in the bed with me.  Those of you who took me out and drank with me to excess and then thought it ok to have sex with me, leading up to moments of my coming to, alone in a room at a party, not really sure what had happened at all. 

 

Some of you I cared for and was desperate for you to care for me.  Some of you, with whom I shared a mutual sexual desire (or at least as much of one that a young teen can have and understand), I had fun with, only to realize that was all it would ever be.  And some of you actually cared about me. Whatever the case may be, past sexual traumas have been shoved in all of our faces these past few weeks, and many of us are reeling from things that we haven’t thought about in years or maybe just swept under the carpet and thought that it wasn’t a big deal, unaware of the daily emotional strife that has been caused from it.  I’ve heard situations described that I have experienced in my past, now talked about as violations…and it never occurred to me that they were…until now.

 

What I want you all to know is that it is a big deal.  It has had long lasting ramifications on my self-esteem, my decision making, and my sexual and mental health as an adult.  I may not blame all of you for the past, but if another generation of men are raised thinking that this type of sexual behavior is ok, that’s a problem, and one that I do put directly on you.  And if another generation of women are raised not knowing how to use their voices, that’s an issue as well and one that you also have a responsibility to rectify.

 

I was a very confused girl who wanted attention and love.  Rarely did I say no.  Rarely did I push you away.  If I started to say no, I was easily swayed once a bit of pressure was applied.  The fact is, I didn’t feel like I could say no.  That saying no meant never having love.  That it was better to just let you do what you wanted rather than say no.  That the way to get love was to be amenable.  The way to make you stay was to put out.  But none of you ever stayed.

 

The reason I don’t blame all of you is that we live in a society where I unknowingly was taught to please men and where men (perhaps at times unknowingly as well) have an expectation of women being agreeable to meeting all of their needs without argument.  Were my parents direct messengers of this?  No.  But it was all around me.  In magazine images, TV shows and movies.  The realization that one of my favorite John Hughes movies portrays date rape never occurred to me until someone wrote a blog post about it last week. 

 

We are being told about blatant attacks, horrendous sexual violations where women feel their lives are in danger, and this type of behavior is obviously abhorrent in a black and white sort of way.  However, there is also a huge gray area that needs to be discussed, where women may be confused and not communicating what they feel deeply because of social and sexual pressures.  I wanted you to like me.  I wanted you to love me.  I wanted you to be there and “no” just didn’t seem like an option to get to that outcome.  It is important for you to know that I was a terrified girl looking for approval.  Is that sexy for you?  To know that I was most likely full of doubt, self-loathing, and terror when we had sex? I sure hope not.  In your defense, I will say that I never let you know.  I never learned that it was ok to use my voice, and it’s something that as a 42-year-old woman I am now having to deal with. 

 

What you did has had a long-term effect on my life.  I have had to fight back from a debilitating alcohol problem that increased greatly during my teen years and didn’t stop until I was having suicidal thoughts in my mid-thirties.  I still live with daily anxiety battles and grapple with depression at times.  We are now learning that these are all issues that women who live with past sexual trauma are more likely to have.  And think about this: we are also more likely to pass these horrible behaviors down to our own children.

 

So, men, here is what I am asking from you:

 

Talk to your children.  Talk to them about sex. Awkward as it may be, it’s only awkward because we make it that way.  If they are old enough to ask the questions, they are old enough to get honest answers.  Tell them the ways you got it right and the ways you got it wrong. Admit to your mistakes so they know it’s ok to admit to their own. 

 

Tell your boys that if they see a girl drinking heavily throughout the night, it’s not ok to have sex with her, period, even if they’re drinking with her.  Tell them that if she’s under 18 and he is over 18, no matter how mature she is, it’s rape.  Teach them about what actual consent is and how consent can be sexy because it creates trust.

 

Teach your boys that cornering girls in parties and trying to forcibly kiss and/or touch them is wrong…yes, even if the girl has a reputation for being "easy".  Tell them that if a girl says no and then yes, or yes and then no, that there is conflict brewing inside her and that if there is conflict, sex is not an option. There must be clarity in consent before sex.  And please tell them that a proper response to a girl saying yes and then no is NEVER, “can I just finish?”

 

Teach them that it is not ok to expose themselves to anyone unsolicited, EVER.  I didn’t grow up with cell phones but in this case, I am also talking about sending unsolicited photos.  Teach them that while engaged in sexual activity, consent needs to be ask for again before trying new things.  Teach them about healthy sexual trust and that the real way to please a woman sexually from the beginning is by building that healthy foundation.

 

All of these things happened to me, most of them more than once.  I was a troubled girl and that led to me being a troubled woman for a very long time. I drank and didn’t say no, but that doesn’t mean that any of this was ok…and I am slowly learning that it doesn’t mean it was all my fault.  I was a child when I learned these behaviors and they carried into my adulthood.

 

I also want you to talk to your daughters. Tell them that no matter what, having sex, allowing touching, kissing, oral sex, whatever it may be, none of it will lead to love.  None of it will ever make boys stay. That love and trust leads to sex, not the other way around.  Tell them that having sex while inebriated can cause feelings of shame, guilt, and confusion, and to make it a rule for themselves that when they are drinking, sex is not an option. 

 

Tell your daughters that if they ever feel pressure to do something that they are not comfortable with, to use their voice because they hold more power than they may think.  Teach them that they should be as loud as they want when saying no.  That if they feel discomfort in a situation, even if they can’t pinpoint exactly where the discomfort is coming from, that it means something is not right, and therefore it is not the right time to engage in sexual activity.  It is ok for them to leave the situation.  It is ok for them to defend themselves.  That the fact that they “put themselves in that situation” does NOT make it all their fault. 

 

And make sure you are clear that whatever boy makes her feel pressured or uncomfortable is NOT a good person and will never make a good partner because in reality, he doesn't care about her, he only cares about finding sexual release.  And it is of the utmost importance that your daughters hear this from YOU, their fathers.  They can have these conversations with their mothers as well, but hearing it from the most important man in their life will make a huge impression.

 

In my case, having sex never made one of you stay, it just meant that you would tell your friends that I was an easy lay.  I would be so happy when one of you would call and ask to hang out, and I can still feel the desperate humiliation of that translating to being brought to a remote place to have sex in your car.  Time after time I allowed this to happen.  I was frozen in fear.  Is that what you find sexy?  A young girl too scared to move? 

 

The thought of my daughter having to go through what I am now going through makes me want to vomit.  It should upset us all, including you. I pray that you see the problem and talk to your kids.  I hope that you, the young man who took advantage of a much younger and troubled girl, look at your own daughters or nieces or cousins or step-daughters when they are 13, 14, and 15-years-old and think to yourself, “That’s how old she was when I fed her drinks and slept with her”.   Is that sexy now?

 

We all have to take responsibility for our own part.  I have been dismantling my past behaviors for the 5 years that alcohol has no longer been in my life.  But now, over the past couple of weeks, I have relived all of it including an intense deluge of the shame, guilt and humiliation which I have unknowingly been living with every single day since I lost my virginity, drunk at 13, to an 18-year-old. I feel this. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  Have you felt any of that?  Have you thought back on your own behaviors and felt a crushing sense of pain?  I’d like to think that some of you have, but I have a feeling that you have not thought twice about it or me, and that has to change.

 

It is time for you to see what this behavior does to women.  It is time for a change to be made.  I have to find a way past the shame, guilt, and humiliation, which has now turned into anger, sadness and exhaustion.  It is time for you to pitch in and do your part.  So, will you?

 

 

Sincerely,

A Promiscuous Teen

Pictured above at 16-Years-Old

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram.   Join me on this crazy beautiful artventure.  

Moving Towards Understanding: Communication is Key

Right now, I must express myself or I may implode like an overdue time bomb. 

It has been a crazy couple of weeks for us all.  I could just say that it's been a hard couple of weeks for me, but every woman that I speak to seems to say the same thing.  Without sharing my most overwhelming feelings right now, which are frankly too confused to put words to, I'll just say that it is so important now more than ever, to support the women in your life.  Ask them how they're doing.  Listen without interruption.  Respect their challenges, past, present and future, without judgement.  We need each other's humanity now.  

This is seeping into my work.  As both a distraction and a motivation.  I want to be strong and grow past this rough moment in my own story.  I want to be a voice that helps to allow others to feel brave enough to use their own.  I want to fight until there is no more of this particular flavor of internal pain, and replace it with knowledge.  Do I know how I'm going to do this?  Not at all.  But just by starting the conversation, I feel I am doing the right thing.  

We should all be sharing our past, present and future with each other. We have more in common than we think.

And maybe that's the how:  by simply starting to talk about it.  I have to be honest...right now, the thoughts are hard to organize.  I often feel paralyzed by the overwhelming amount of thoughts that enter and exit my brain at a rapid fire pace.  I promise to be less vague as I learn more.  But right now, this is all I can offer.  It is all I have.  Just a vow to figure the shit out for myself so that I can share it with you.

And so I paint without parameters.  Just let whatever wants out, out.  This has always been my best form of communication anyway.  And I surf.  Paddling out into surf that is bigger than I'm used to surfing.  Getting my ass handed to me by the waves and then getting right back onto the board, paddling even harder.  To prove my strength to myself.  I am strong.  I am diligent.  I want to learn.

And I'm seeking help to put some order into the chaos that my brain is currently hosting.  In my case, this means visiting my therapist.  Sometimes, I need guidance.  And that's ok too.  Now is the time for me to practice more self-love and compassion than I was giving myself yesterday.

Whatever gets you moving in the direction of understanding, do it.  Whatever allows you to forgive yourself, don't hesitate to dive in.  Whatever support you need from your loved ones to move through this space, ask for it.  Because I guarantee, if you start talking, they will too.  Take care of yourself.  Be kind and gentle. We are the voices of change and no longer will I choose shame over change.

Painting at top is Reflections, 24x24, Paper Clay & Acrylic on Canvas

Join my community and be part of the Artventure!