You are Here.

I went to counseling this morning. It was perfect timing on the heels of my latest Ohio Adventure and the stress of traveling by plane.

I want to find a way to encourage people to try counseling, or to encourage people to continue going to counseling if they already go. I don’t have any clever gimmicks. I have no way to make the magic happen for anyone else. I just want you to be well. I want you to feel happy, and I want you to understand yourself better and accept yourself. If you do feel happy and you do accept yourself, you probably don’t feel like you need counseling. I’m cool with that, and I feel proud of you. You got it goin’ on!

If you break your arm, you go to the doctor, explain what happened and how your arm feels. The doctor provides medication, a cast, information about ongoing care to repair your broken arm. Maybe you need pins in your elbow, or you have to wear the cast for so long that your muscles atrophy and you have to follow through with physical therapy after the cast is removed. Chances are, you’ll do all of that without hesitation and without question. I mean, you need your arm, right? You can do life with one arm, but it’ll be easier with two.

Your brain isn’t broken. Your emotions aren’t broken. Your spirit isn’t broken. If you don’t feel well, if you don’t feel right, if you just don’t feel, there are ways to work on this. There are paths to the best YOU that YOU can be. Maybe it’s like physical therapy, but for your emotional self, for your spirit and your mental health? There are places where you can sit and cry, cuss, cover your face, close your eyes, plainly say, “I feel angry,” or just sit quietly. You can say, “This isn’t fair,” “This hurt my feelings,” “I’m glad I did that,” “I didn’t deserve that,” “I wish I had done more,” “I wish I felt like I could say…” Whatever you need or want. I even laugh and giggle during counseling. For me, it is absolutely a safe place, and I believe in the power of a counselor’s office to be a safe place for whoever needs it. I’m not sure I know anybody who doesn’t need that.

I love to go to counseling. I look forward to it. I keep a mental (and sometimes written) list of things to make sure I share. Just knowing an appointment is coming up is more helpful than you might imagine. When I receive my text reminder, I feel relieved. And when I’m struggling with something, and I ask my counselor, “Do I have to do this?” and he says, “No,” that sense of liberation is just more than I ever thought I’d have in this life. It may take some time, but the burden lifts eventually.

If someone reaches out to you, LISTEN and help. If you don’t know what to do, your community probably has a mental health deputy, emergency medical services of some kind, a health department, etc. If you don’t know what to do, get your phone book out and call SOMEONE. You can find someone who knows what to do. You can find someone to help with the financial burden or transportation barrier. If you’re reading this, you know me, and I will help. Don’t forget that the word “health” does not exclusively apply to physical health.

I do not believe in throwing anyone away. I do not believe in protecting myself or my image at the detriment of someone else’s wellbeing. Nobody is perfect, and there is no number of stories you can tell that will make you appear perfect. If you need help, go get it or start looking for it. If someone tells you that they need help, that’s not about you. Do what you can to help that person feel and be better. It’s not about you. No matter how good your image is, a person who is hurting will continue to hurt. That person’s hurt will likely get worse. What happens to you or with you does not do anything to help the person who needs help. When people need help, they absolutely get to be selfish, because the other options are bad. The other options aren’t even real options. In many instances of a person hurting, that person already does not feel worthy. The person doesn’t feel valuable. If we take away the opportunity to be selfish when they NEED to be selfish, it reinforces that nasty idea that everyone else is more valuable. I can speak to this, because I have been there many times, over and over. Do I need to spell out some possible consequences of a person feeling worthless or just less-than everyone else?

Having said all of this, don’t forget that you cannot pour from an empty cup, so make sure you help yourself (s/o to Addie for the reminder). I spent a lot of years trying to make myself an island because other people can be so goddamn awful, cold and unreliable. It never worked. It is so cheesy and so worn out, but no person is an island. Nobody does “good life” alone. Whether we like it or not, we are social beings and, luckily, the word “community” has several definitions. When you find your community, they help you do “good life.” That includes you pulling your weight in that same community, so everyone involved gets to have “good life.”

If you have questions about counseling or you want me to be quiet (note: I’ll interpret this as me hitting too close to home for you and you not being able to handle your real feelings, in which case YOU NEED COUNSELING), reach out via contact form here, via FB, via IG (@commonmaggie). You can reach me. Take care of yourself, take care of each other and be kind.

Numbered Words: 2018

“Because when we’re terrified about the enormity of the universe’s indifference, and our smallness in the face of it, we tell stories.  When we’re powerless to shape and control our fear, we tell stories.  When we feel alone, we tell stories.
And when we have stories to tell but no one to read them, we tell stories anyway.”     –Patton Oswalt, introduction for The Ghost Box II; Summer, 2018.

It’s that time again.  Time to share the list of books I read last year.  Just like last year, I’ll warn you: there’s no need to hold onto one’s hat.

1. Difficult Women (Gay)
2. Finding My Badass Self (Stanfa-Stanley)
3. Crossing to Safety (Stegner)
4. Anatomy of Innocence (Caldwell & Klinger)
5. A Myriad of Roads That Lead To Here: A Novella (Elias)
6. Fahrenheit 451 (Bradbury)
7. Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (Jensen)
8. Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977 – 2002 (Sedaris)
9. Dreamland (Quinones)
10. In Zanesville (Beard)
11. The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery (James)
12. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (Schwartz)
13. The Ghost Box II (Hingston & Olsen Publishing)

Just like last year, I don’t feel proud of this list, but I am sharing it because I strive for authenticity.  I had a very good run during the summer, until I started reading the axe murder book (James).  It’s an incredible book, but it’s written by a famous baseball statistician.  You get what I’m saying.  This was also my first year back in “studenthood.”  That’s one reason why I had a good run during the summer: I wasn’t taking any classes.  I can also see that my reading started to suffer around the time I started to have problems related to my old job.  It has been enlightening to review my year and see where the wave broke and everything started to get weird.

I’m starting 2019 with Shirley Jackson and Brene Brown.

Again, just like last year at this time:  It’s a new year. I will do better this year, and so will you, if you want.

Don’t chase rabbits.

When I officially resigned from my last job, I had a big plan to write a long entry about why I would do such a thing.  That was weeks ago, and I did start writing.  That entry is currently 4 pages long, single spaced.  It’s emotional – not just sadness; there is a respectable amount of anger and frustration – and possibly not appropriate for public sharing.  It’s not finished cooking.  It’s still too raw for human consumption.  If it is ever actually finished, it probably won’t be shared.  I didn’t write it to be ugly.  I wrote it to process my feelings and to try to make sense of what happened.  I’m not certain that it is ugly, but that is something I consider about anything I write to share.

I’ve been trying to write this story for weeks.  When I’m not staring at the Word document, I’m thinking about it.  What should I write?  Can I even share this?  What is even worth sharing?  Did I really quit my job?  

I still feel like I had to quit the job.  Nobody asked me to, but I was having a difficult time.  I was burned out and out-of-touch.  I could not get the work completed.  Even knowing I was burned out, I was still trying to give.  I had progressed past “give until it hurts,” into “give until numbness sets in,” territory and beyond.  [. . . . ]   The week that I learned I needed to quit the job, I had two court hearings.  A co-worker was sent to the first one (Monday) to observe me, because that co-worker needed some extra education regarding testifying.  He was sent to court to observe me testifying that day.  That indicates that, at some point, I was doing okay (at the very least).  Two days later, I was trash.

I have told a condensed version of “what happened at work” to various people and nobody – not one person – has said, “You really fucked up and should not have done that.”

Recently, I had a “lightbulb moment” while obsessing about what to write.

I can tell you that someone questioned my concern for the safety of my community and that hurt me.  That was a good reminder of why we, as human beings, should not kick other human beings when they are down.  If I did not care about the safety of my community, I would never have taken that job seriously.  I would never have burned out.  Another term for “burn out” is “compassion fatigue.”  I’ll repeat that for the people in the back: compassion fatigue.  That someone would question my concern for the safety of the community was deeply insulting.  I have worked not to ruminate on that question.  I haven’t forgotten that it happened, and I doubt that I will.  It helped me remember some important experiences:

During the past 3.5 years, I’ve had had three different people identify, to me, as survivors of childhood sexual abuse and thank me for the work I did.

After a particularly difficult hearing, during which I cried (sitting in the back row of the gallery after I had testified), a victim shook my hand and thanked me for being there.  Her dad thanked me for the work I did that led to the hearing and said he appreciated it (even though we did not get the result they wanted).

After a hearing in October, a victim’s mother mouthed the words, “Thank you,” to me as we were all leaving the courtroom.

In 2017, a CSO from a different county ended up mixed up in some stuff with a person on my case load at that time.  The mother of his granddaughter was also involved – the granddaughter was in an unsafe situation.  That officer thanked me for the work I did with that case.  That was especially meaningful because he is an officer who supervises sex offenders.  He knows.

I’m no stranger to the phrase, “I don’t know how you do that, but I’m glad you do.”

****

Recently, during a yoga class, I was most dissatisfied to find that inside my head, I was inside the district courthouse, just about to relive the chastising that changed my life.  I pulled my mind away from that, but I felt angry about it.  So much of the self-care I’m doing now, including yoga class, is meant to put distance between myself and that day, if not that entire week.  As a society, we often joke about Wednesday being “hump day,” and the rest of the week is downhill from that day.  If that was not 100% accurate for me in that week, then it never is.

The good life.

We’re coming up on my 8-year anniversary of being a resident of Texas.  Every year that passes, I feel surprised that I’m still here.  After making the choice to move, I created some vague back-up plans: I could move back to Ohio, I could move in with family in the San Antonio area if San Angelo didn’t work out.  I didn’t have a timeline or a solid plan beyond: move to San Angelo, start job, see how it goes.  So, I moved to San Angelo, TX, by myself.   

In early August 2010, I started my job at the San Angelo State Supported Living Center.  This feels like a good time for a flashback:

 I finished my MSCJ in 2009.  As soon as I had my diploma, I started looking for jobs outside of Ohio.  I focused on Virginia/DC area and had some thoughts about Texas.  But Virginia – that was IT.  I wanted desperately to work for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  I still do.  They have a branch in Austin.  I wasn’t good enough for NCMEC in 2009 and have never felt like I am.  I check their available positions every once in a while.  That’s right, NCMEC!  I’m still coming for you!

 I hope you enjoyed that nostalgic tangent….

 I eventually gave up on Virginia/DC.  I went out there one time for a pre-screening exam related to a position for which I applied.  They called me to return to interview.  I cancelled that.  I started looking for work in Texas.  I visited family in San Antonio and looked around for places that seemed to fit me, job-wise.  It was a wash.  Nothing came from that.  Back in Ohio, I expanded my search somehow.  I have no idea how.  I applied for a position for the SSLC in San Angelo.  Why not?  I have no memory of applying, why it was enticing – nothing.  I got a call from a man who worked there.  He told me some of the basics about the facility, asked about my interest in working there (they had a sex offender population!) and arranged a telephone interview with the person in charge of hiring staff for a certain department. 

 I participated in that interview while sitting in my little red Dodge Neon in the Holzer Medical Center parking lot in the dead, humid heat of July in Ohio.  I tried to hide the fact that I was sitting in my car.  I remember not being able to answer some questions.  I remember referring to Tristi and Kristi because I didn’t realize Dr. Dunham had introduced her as Tristi.  I remember trying to be casual and joke around a little bit.  Worst case scenario: I wouldn’t get hired, but I would still have my job in Ohio.  I knew nothing about San Angelo and had zero attachment to the idea of working here.  I knew it was Texas, and I wanted to find work in Texas because of the weather (no joke).  It was an opportunity to work with sex offenders which, at that time, was just a hope.  I hadn’t already worked with that population and didn’t know what I would be getting myself into.  I just wanted to try it.  I was sure I blew that interview.  The heat in my car was sweltering.  I couldn’t answer some of their questions.  I was nobody. 

 I have no idea how many days passed before I heard from Dr. Dunham to offer me the job.  I don’t remember that conversation, but I think I probably said, “Really?”  because that’s who I am, even now. 

 I called my dad and asked him to stop by my apartment on his way home.  He did.  We sat on a bench on the sidewalk and I told him I was offered the job in Texas, and I was pretty sure I was going to take it.  He was 100% supportive.  I think I had decided, before he left, that I would take the job.  In a seemingly brief period of time, I decided to move, alone, from my all-too-familiar homeland to an unknown city full of strangers in Texas, about 1,500 miles away.  I decided it was time for an adventure.  I mean, I wanted to find a job in Texas, right? 

 Not too long after that, I made a trip to San Angelo to see the new workplace, meet my future co-workers and search for an apartment. 

 So, I moved to San Angelo.  I think we started driving from Ohio on 07/23/10.  We spent one night somewhere in Arkansas where there was a shit ton of enormous mosquitos and a restaurant that had killer onion rings.  The town name was two words and the second word was “Forest.”  That’s all I got.

 The next day, we made it to San Angelo, to my first apartment in Texas, located on Sunset Dr.  Dad and Charlene helped me unpack, spent one night and drove back to Ohio.  Then it was just me with very little furniture in an unfamiliar city.  I didn’t have any living room furniture other than a side table and the television on top of it.  That apartment was great.  There were two big windows in the living room, a pantry, 2 bedrooms, a walk-in closet in the master bedroom.  I loved it.  After work, almost every day, I would get something to eat, go jog at Kirby Park, go home and watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  I lived there for about 3 months while I waited for something to open at Wellington.  

 Wellington seemed great.  The complex looked nicer and I could have laundry machines inside the apartment.  Things went okay there, but the rent went up every year and it was ridiculous.  I got engaged while living in that apartment.  I got married while I lived in that apartment, and I also separated from that partner while living in that apartment.  After close to 4 years of me living there, it was time for a change.  Over the next few months I made some serious changes.  I moved, and I got divorced.  I had that 3rd apartment to myself. 

 I really enjoyed my time at the 3rd apartment.  I was there for 2-3 years.  I even had some friends over.  Once.  I grew a lot while I lived there.  I started taking better care of myself.  I started to really be myself while I lived there.  I even had some adventures, outside of the divorce, although that one was a highlight.  I took a selfie the day I went to the hearing with Judge Gossett to get everything finalized.  He said, “You’re ready to be done with this, aren’t you?”  YES, SIR.  Fun fact:  I started my job with probation while still living in the 3rd apartment.  Judge Gossett swore me in.  That’s some full circle business, folks.  As a side note, while I grew to loathe the first job I had in San Angelo, it was an excellent stepping stone and if I had not had that job, I would not have my current job.  

 After that, I had a very brief stint in a charming, one-bedroom apartment behind an office on Concho Ave.  I loved it.  I could get on the roof and though it wasn’t high, it was a great view.  Since it wasn’t an apartment complex, it was always so quiet and relaxing.  That apartment was a sweet blessing.  Also, built-in book shelves.  That apartment was a blessing at the best time.  I miss it sometimes. 

 If you’re playing along at home, you may already know I live in Todd’s house.  I have been here over 2 years…. I think?  My math skills aren’t great (if you’re checking my math in this, please stop.  You’re missing the point of this entry).  I like to tease Todd about my lack of my own space here (I do have space, but I also lack space).  This is Todd’s house.  He lived here for years before we ever met.  It’s a truly great house.  For a while, we talked about moving and even looked at a few houses with the intention of moving.  However, at the end of the day, this is a great house.  If we moved, I’d be pissed off about someone else living here.  We’re going to add on a little bit.  It’s going to work great.  I want to hire someone to paint a portrait of a serial killer for my room, because that’s much kinder than posting a GTFO sign.  An added bonus about Todd’s house:  I’m not sure if there’s a library inside this house or if we live inside a library. 

 I have been in Texas for 8 years.  I’ve gotten engaged, married, divorced and engaged again.  I’ve had 2 jobs.  I’ve started working on another master’s degree.  I’ve made friends, lost friends.  I’ve run 2 half-marathons and one 5k.  I did Crossfit for a couple years and quit doing it.  For the past 2 years, I’ve been a member of a gym that is an absolute fucking dream – enough of a dream that I willingly go to class at 5:30am.  That gym is working for me in so many ways.  I’ve seen all kinds of different places.  I went to SXSW.  I’ve been to Marfa Myths twice.  I’ve gotten two new piercings.  I hiked at Big Bend State Park and Big Bend National Park.  I’ve visited Galveston.  I’ve seen scorpions, armadillos, tarantulas and Javelina, and I never get tired of chasing lizards I will never catch (I just want to be friends!). 

 Regardless of how cheesy this sounds, it is absolutely true:  I found my voice in Texas.  I don’t think I can articulate just how much I’ve grown since moving here.  I have no problem telling anyone that when I was still living in Ohio, I felt terrified that someday I would commit suicide.  My family is there, and I have friends there, but in some way there was nothing there for me.  I don’t believe I would have ever flourished there the way I have here.  Could I have found my voice just anywhere?  Possibly.  I can tell you that it happened here, but maybe it would have happened in Virginia or Pennsylvania or Indiana or even Columbus, Ohio.  Maybe.  But none of that matters now. 

 I understand that San Angelo is not a huge, glamorous city.  I understand I do not live in Austin or Dallas.  I know there are other places that are, in some ways, better.  When anyone talks about how terrible San Angelo is, how small it is, how there’s nothing here, I think about my homeland: an entire county with a population of 23,257 in 2015.  While San Angelo isn’t San Antonio, it is something to someone like me. 

 Before anyone thinks I’m getting too down on my homeland where I still have family and friends, people can flourish there.  The people I know there have flourished and continue to do so.  My point is, that I wasn’t flourishing there and don’t believe I ever would have.  I never regret moving.  I do feel homesick sometimes, especially when I know I’m missing something important like my nieces going to prom and my nephew playing little league baseball.  I am missing all of it.  That’s the price I pay for not being able to make it work in my homeland.  I experience an element of envy for people who could make it work, because they get to keep their front row seat with their families.  I get pictures on my phone, text messages, pictures and messages via social media.  I’m not complaining.  Imagine how disconnected I’d feel without all this technology.  But it’s not the same as being in the front row.  My Cool Aunt status has suffered.    

The temperature reached 111* in San Angelo today.  Getting into my car around 1pm felt awful.  This heat happens every summer, and every summer I wonder, “Was it this bad last summer?”  We’re always in danger of running out of water.  We have an atrocious meth problem (I think the heroin is coming slowly but surely) and nearly 400 registered sex offenders in this county alone.  The traffic is ridiculous around 8am, 12pm, 1pm and 5pm, M-F, but nothing like Austin – just ridiculous for a city this size.  When it rains, the water just stands in the road creating hazards because this city on the fringe of the desert just cannot deal.  I have lost my skills for driving in rain.  The people who have grown up here never had those skills.  San Angelo has it downsides, just like anywhere, but looking at the past 8 years of my life, being able to live here has done so much more for me than I ever hoped or imagined. 

 Life is good.

Fits & The Starts.

My writing for the past few months is best described as in fits & starts.  The week leading up to Mother’s Day, I was all over it.  I wrote a 9-page letter to my mom.  It’s not even finished.  I reread it today.  It’s garbage.  I think I put pressure on myself to write something for Mother’s Day because that is how this blog began last year.  I’m not sure last year can be topped, which is undoubtedly what I was trying to do.

I am often writing scraps here and there.  I have several Word documents saved that may never see the Interwebs.  I like to revisit them later to find out if they have any teeth.  It’s kinda fun.

While at work today – desperately trying to write – I decided I would share my recent fits here.  The letter to my mom deteriorated and got into some very personal information, so I will only share part of that.  Not that you would know that without me telling you.  In general, I wish I was writing more that I found worthy of being shared.  I feel weird going so long without posting an entry here.  If it’s any consolation, I am reading my ass off this year.  Still not good enough, but much better than last year.

Welcome to the fits & starts of late Spring 2018:

 

PART 1

Dear Mom,

Mother’s Day is this weekend.  It’ll be the first Mother’s Day in years that I haven’t felt obligated to fake it.  Dad gave me a pass for the first Mother’s Day after you died [….] I’m off the hook.  Finally. 

It goes without saying that I wish you were here.  I need advice and support.  Since you aren’t here, I can create a fantasy in which if only you were here, everything would be just right.  I would share openly with you about my troubles and my feelings.  You would listen without judgement and guide me right into the best, most appropriate decision.  Aside from this being completely impossible, even if you were here, it reminds me that I don’t know you at all. 

You were a human being; a woman.  You were also a wife and mother.  Were you completely devoted to those roles?  Would you be horrified to find one of your daughters rejecting motherhood so emphatically?  Would you feel disappointed?  Maybe you would be supportive, either out of love for me or in agreement with [my perception of] motherhood as a bottomless pit of demand, work [….].  Motherhood isn’t even the problem.  That conviction, thankfully, is firm.  I wish I could pinpoint exactly how I figured this out.  I sure could use some clarity. 

It’s the strangest thing. [….] I am guilty of being unrealistic.  I am guilty of confusing assumption with accuracy.  I am guilty of believing a very difficult thing is actually easy and simple.  We all begin as children, though, right?  We all begin empty and fill up over time – hopefully.  I’m nowhere near being full, I hope.  There has to be so much more to learn.  I want more knowledge and more time….

++++++++++++

PART 2

When your mom dies you’re the best memory of her.  Everything you do and say is a memory of her.  –Alice Oswalt

By these standards, I am never doing enough.  I am not actively making my mom proud.  I say “bad” words, I gossip, I judge.  I have a dry sense of humor.  I’m sarcastic and I have been known to laugh at crude jokes, violent jokes.  I am not especially nice or cheerful.  I earned this resting bitch face.  Not unlike Daria Morgandorfer, I only smile if I have a reason. 

While I am worrying about not being a positive memory of my mom, I have to consider that I’m an accurate memory of her.  I believe Lindsay (my sister) is an accurate memory of our mom.  A very important part of our mom is still here because of Lindsay.  She’s a mom.  She’s nurturing, she bakes cookies, she keeps my secrets, she has my back. 

Last week, I wrote a letter to my mom.  I never actually finished it.  It was meant to help me process some things that have been rattling around in my mind.  I’m never able to answer the question, What would mom do? Or What would she tell me to do?  Sometimes getting close to that question is fun.  She’s isn’t here, so I can assume she’d tell me to do what makes me happy.  Or would she tell me to do what I think is best?  That’s different….

++++++++++++

PART 3

When your mom dies you’re the best memory of her.  Everything you do and say is a memory of  her. –Alice Oswalt

I haven’t written many letters to my mom.  They typically transition from some kind of explanation to an apology.  Sometimes the lack of her presence in my life can be seen as an advantage (it helps if you tilt your head when you squint) because I have no idea what her expectations were for me.  Without that, I can pretend that she just wanted me to be happy [….]

The other side of not knowing her expectations for me is the inescapable feeling that I haven’t met them.  I can’t know if/when I’ll meet them.  That means I need to be a truly incredible and good person at all times.  That is pressure.  That is failure.  Already.

More often than not, I consider what I’ve learned about motherhood and mother-child relationships.  Surely she just wanted me to be happy and safe….

——————————————————————————————————————————-

And the next thing in the notebook is about the potential dangers of viewing pornography.  No kidding.  As a quick note: I don’t think viewing pornography is dangerous for everyone.  More on that….some other time.

What to take from this entry:  I have been struggling with writing for the past couple of months.  I wanted to post an update.  I wrote these pieces weeks ago, and I couldn’t shake them.  If you’re feeling disappointed, just remember there will eventually be an entry about pornography.  I’m sure you want to stick around for that!

“That’s a fine-looking high horse….” Part 2

In my last entry, I wrote about a capital murder trial being held in San Angelo.  The punishment phase ended yesterday, and the sentence was handed down last night.

The first article about the sentencing.

The second article about the sentencing.

And a solid rehashing of a Warden’s testimony during the murder trial.

 

If you are interested in reading (or rereading) “That’s a fine-looking high horse….” (Part 1), get in touch with me (however you like) and I will fix you right up with a password.

“That’s a fine-looking high horse….” Part 1

Since September 2014, a saga has been unfolding in San Angelo, TX.  A 5-year-old girl was murdered.  Someone slit her throat.  The person charged was found guilty on Wednesday, 03/28/18.  At this time, the case is in the punishment phase.  The jury will choose between life in prison and the death penalty for the 27-year-old man who was found guilty.  My research indicates he was 23 years old at the time of the murder (important information for my psych. nerd readers and other readers who are interested in brain development).  I am asking you, politely, to please brace yourself, because I am about to write what I’m sure is an unpopular statement that you will notice is accompanied by unpopular feelings:  This whole thing – yes, the WHOLE thing – is hurting my heart.

If we are dealing in knee-jerk reactions, I bet you and I have similar feelings and thoughts.  We feel sick, angry, outraged.  We want blood, right?  But, I think humanity is important.

If we are getting deep, I am comfortable admitting that what will be done to this man seems inhumane.  Now, in admitting my thoughts and feelings about this situation, I am NOT condoning his actions.  I am not giving him a pass.  I am not saying that what he did was, in any way, humane.  I am admitting that the idea of putting a 27-year-old man in a concrete box, where he will stay 22/24 hours a day, every day for the rest of his life, without the opportunity to work, attend educational programming or any other kind of constructive activity seems inhumane to me.  According to a TDCJ warden who testified on 04/03/18 (please visit the San Angelo Live! website and search for “Isidro DeLaCruz” for more details because this blog is not about having a References section), this is what life is like for a death row inmate.  After I read this information in the news article, I thought they must not let death row inmates do anything or have them do anything because death row inmates are just waiting to die.  Why waste any resources on a person who is just waiting to die?  There’s no need to even attempt something like rehabilitation or any kind of instruction because the person is just being housed until the state kills him/her.  As if he does not deserve to do anything productive because he is just waiting to die.

He may never have physical contact with any of his loved ones ever again.  They may visit, but they’ll be separated by plexiglass and communicate through a phone.  He can’t hug his mother?  What?  And he’s going to be expected to behave in some kind of socially acceptable manner?  He’s going to be expected to function like a typical human being?  He’ll be expected to conduct himself as a reasonable human being while he lives in a concrete box and has severely limited physical contact with other human beings.  I’m guessing the person who cuts his hair, medical personnel, dentistry personnel and prison guards during searches and while un/cuffing him.  That may be the extent of the physical contact he has with any other human beings while he’s waiting to die.  Please try to abstain from making prison rape jokes because I think we should all be at a point in life when we realize that jokes about any kind of rape aren’t funny.

The other option – life in prison without the chance for parole – at least offers an opportunity to work.  He would be permitted contact visits.  He will still be in prison for the rest of his life, but he could do something or learn something.  I’m guessing those stages of development they teach in Developmental Psychology classes occur even in incarcerated persons.  Serving life in prison without the chance for parole, if/when he needed to go to a doctor or go to some type of scheduled activity, he would be permitted to leave his cell and walk to another area of the prison.  He would be allowed to hug his mother when she visits.  allowed to hug his mother

I know that little girl will never hug her mother again.  She will not attend school, go to the prom, get married, have children.  She’ll never wear braces, she’ll never work at a job and she’ll never get a speeding ticket.  She won’t buy a birthday cake for her grandmother.  I understand that she is gone.  Without a doubt, I believe her death was brutal, horrific and unfair.  I’m not sure anything is more heart-breaking.  I am not trying to minimize that.  I do not have children, but I cannot even conceive of the brutal murder of a small child.  I’m not advocating for rewarding this man.  I’m not advocating for making his life easier or more comfortable.  I am advocating for treating a human being like a human being.  Whatever opinion you have of him, he is still that – a human being.  He is still one of us.

This was very difficult to write and even more difficult to share.  I promise you, I share those visceral reactions you have to this horrendous crime.  I share that anger and disgust.  I share that hurt.  I worked to process this on an intellectual level, and it fucking sucks, but I wanted to do it.  I did not do it just to write this.  I did it because, whatever crimes he has committed, he is still a human being.  I think humanity is important.  While I was in college, I heard, “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” for the first time.  I don’t know this guy.  I don’t love him the way I love my family and friends, but he is a human being.

I’m not saying he should not be punished.  I am saying that I have no clue what his punishment should be.  I am saying that I am thankful that the decision about his punishment does not fall on my shoulders, because I would not have a fucking clue what to do.  I do not believe I could torture someone, knowingly.  I do not believe I could forbid someone hugging his/her mother, sister, cousin, best friend, etc.  What is the point of taking away this person’s humanity?  What is the ultimate goal?  What ultimate purpose does it serve to destroy a person, essentially, and still have him existing, walking around, trying to be alive while he is waiting to die?

The death penalty is not a deterrent.  Do not even try that argument.  If that is all you have to offer, please get off at the next stop.  We all know what may happen if we murder someone, especially in Texas.  Occasionally, at work, I have to remind myself that the person at the other side of my desk does not think the same way that I think.  That’s one of the reasons why that person is on that side of the desk and I am on my side of the desk.  I sometimes feel shocked at someone’s behavior or a choice the person has made.  I wonder, “Isn’t s/he scared?  Doesn’t s/he know what may happen now?”  That knowledge doesn’t land the same way with that person as it does with me.  When someone chooses to risk going to prison for 5-99 years just so he can spend a few weekends in Dallas and get drunk, he is obviously not thinking the same way I would think, which is, “No way.  I am not leaving this house.”  I hate setting foot inside our county jail just to visit someone for work purposes.  I cannot imagine how I would feel if I knew I had to live inside that jail for any amount of time.  For some people, it doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal.  I am grateful for my mindset.

In writing this and sharing my thoughts and feelings, I don’t know whether I am wrong or not.  I have no idea.  This has been lining up for, literally, years in the city where I live.  I have had time to read about it, follow it and think about it.  I’ve seen his mugshot from the night he was arrested and the more recent pictures of him as a clean-cut guy wearing a bullet proof vest over his button-up shirt while being walked from the courthouse back to the county jail, escorted by jailers wearing plainclothes.  I’ve seen the pictures of that vibrant, precious little girl.  The whole thing hurts my heart.

Her death – her brutal murder – was not fair.  There is nothing that can repair what her family has experienced and what they will continue to experience.  There is nothing that can bring her back or in any way make up for the loss of that child.

I will never say, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” because clichés are annoying and vacant.  If you can fit your life philosophy on a standard-size bumper sticker, you need to go back to the drawing board.  I won’t use that cliché because it isn’t my point.  I just don’t see how we’re doing anything other than piling on more destruction.

 

The Oxford English Dictionary provides the following definitions of torture:

[mass noun]

  1.  The action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something.

1.1   Great physical or mental suffering.

1.2   A cause of great physical or mental suffering.

[verb]

  1. Inflict severe pain on.

1.1 Cause great mental suffering to.

 

The Oxford English Dictionary provides the following definitions of humanity

[mass noun]

  1.  Human beings collectively.

1.1  The state of being human.

2.  The quality of being humane; benevolence.

 

I’m not writing enough.

Earlier today I flipped through the Moleskin I carry in my purse. More than one entry started with, “I’m not writing enough” or some derivation. I found an entry I decided to share here:

10.11.17
Allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape against Harvey Weinstein bring up fresh crops of people who hold tight to archaic beliefs that victims of sexual assault somehow asked for it. Not too far behind are the people who minimize, as if anything short of brutal vaginal penetration accompanied by struggle & screaming doesn’t count.

There is so much lacking from “common knowledge” regarding sex crimes, sex offending. People discount or are ignorant of the grooming and how psychologically damaging it can be.

My own experience has provided me w/the opportunity, however unfortunate, to know what it’s like to have sexual touching forced on me. I know how it feels to have another person touch my body when I didn’t want them to; when I said No. I also have familiarity w/situations in which I felt like I couldn’t say No; I couldn’t reject sexual comments. In a way, I feel comfortable viewing this as a weakness. Assertiveness requires practice, after all. However, the person behind the touching and the people behind the comments shouldn’t have chosen those actions.

And when it was someone who was somehow “above” me…. What real choice did I have?
—————————————————————————-

Many of the entries in my physical journal are lacking and/or cut short. This one definitely is. I’m going to try to fill it out more….

as if anything short of brutal vaginal penetration accompanied by struggle & screaming doesn’t count. Okay, there are differences in assaults. The assaults I have experienced were not accompanied by struggle and screaming. That does not mean these assaults were not harmful, scary, damaging. That does not mean that I could just shake it off and get over it. There isn’t some continuum of healing that dictates how easily and quickly a victim has to heal from an assault.

While working at a previous job, a mentally ill, intellectually/developmentally disabled man who was known to sexually assault (typically by fondling) females exposed himself and called out to get my attention. I went through all of the facility protocol bullshit. I made a report to the local sheriff’s department. A day or few later, during a meeting in my safe, friendly department, I tried to tell my co-workers what happened and just started bawling. I’m not one for public crying. I wanted to tell them what happened. I had no idea the crying was going to happen. For a little while, I had some nightmares related to the incident. The professional I spoke to said what I was experiencing was like a low-grade, watered down PTSD. For a couple of months, whenever I had to go into that area of the campus, I asked someone to go with me. When I went into that area, my heart rate increased, I was hyper-vigilant and afraid to look around. When I needed to leave my building, I would look out the window to make sure he wasn’t nearby. If he came around while I was outside, I went inside. My co-workers would tell me he was around to save me the trip of going outside. That one incident went a long way in teaching me not to respond when someone yells, even if they yell my name.

Exposing is a non-contact offense. That guy never put his hands on me. He never made any sexual comments to me. When this happened, I had at least a couple of years of experience working with and studying sex offenders, and that incident rattled me. Imagine if that had happened in my neighborhood – any sense of safety is just gone. A person doesn’t have to put their hands on another person to cause trauma.

When I first lived alone, I received obscene phone calls in the middle of the night several nights. The caller sounded like a male. Another non-contact offense that made me feel anxious and unsafe and, that time, inside my home. The only thing I remember about the number – when there was a number; sometimes it was Blocked or Private – was that it was an Athens, OH, number. I had a friend who lived in Athens, and I kinda shook him down about it thinking he had someone messing with me as a joke. He said he didn’t know anything about it.

People discount or are ignorant of the grooming Grooming can be so many different things: compliments, buying things, paying bills, being a source of support at any and all times, making someone feel they owe a favor, volunteering to help to the point that it seems too good to be true, giving gifts, etc. That doesn’t mean that a person who volunteers to help you with your laundry is grooming you for sexual assault or for your complicity in the person sexually assaulting someone else. Your intuition is likely to tell you when it is grooming — listen to your intuition! Keep in mind that there people who are just helpful. There are people who love you and want to buy you cookies. Not everyone is grooming you, but if someone seems “off,” that’s worth giving extra attention and caution.

I know how it feels to have another person touch my body when I didn’t want them to; when I said No. I also have familiarity w/situations in which I felt like I couldn’t say No Remember in jr. high and high school when boys would touch girls on the butt and it was funny? I’m not sure that was funny. I don’t know who decided that butts are common property or when it was decided, but I did not receive that memo. I am not a fan of being touched without expressing that I am open to being touched, but I would have likely not felt as freaked out as I did had the person touched my elbow or upper arm. Just sayin’. And it is okay if you are reading this and thinking I am overreacting. I am not saying that this was traumatic and I needed therapy to overcome it. I am saying it was not appropriate. I am saying I felt uncomfortable having my ass grabbed without my consent or invitation by a male peer who I believed was my friend. I did not feel good believing I had to run to avoid having someone touch my body when I had clearly expressed that I did not want him to touch me.

I have a history of failing at assertiveness when I feel scared. I have had periods of time when I just was not assertive. I have also had periods of my life when I was meek and did not know my own worth. A few less-than-favorable things happened. I was in my late 20s before I learned that being coerced into sexual activity can be considered sexual assault. I hope other people are aware of that — if you have to talk someone into engaging in sexual activity with you, or you have to “wear them down,” you need to just stop. My experience in this type of situation led to me beating myself up later thinking that I was stupid for giving in when I didn’t want to. I truly believed I was at fault. I was the person who did something wrong.

This entry isn’t meant to be a downer, although I know it is not pleasant. When I read the original entry in my physical journal, it stirred up some things and I felt compelled to share.

If you made it this far, thank you for reading.

Flip it & reverse it.

Good readership of COMMON ADVENTURE, I have finally slain the dragon that was figuring out how to set up and share an email subscription form with my audience (please see the link at the end of this entry).

I am planning to spend MUCH LESS time on Facebook in the coming year. I always post a link to new blog posts there, but with my reduction of time allotted for Facebook waste, I wanted to set up a way to let folks know when a new entry is available (please see the link at the end of this entry). Now, you and your friends can sign up to receive email notification of all new posts to the Common Adventure. While I do hope to write & share more in 2018, I will not be posting daily updates. Consistent weekly updating is a stretch. Please, submit your information to be notified of new entries. And share with your friends. I am not above begging you all to sign up and begging you to share with your friends. I will write more and share more this year: I want to write more and share more with more people.

Sign up HERE for email notification. Sign up HERE to subscribe to my meager writing project.

You can still find me on Instagram and Twitter; username for both: commonmaggie

In case you passed over the sign up link: it’s HERE.

Numbered Words: 2017

I’m back in Texas, which means I can share my “Books I Read in 2017” List. I’ll warn you: there’s no need to hold onto one’s hat.

1. The Handmaid’s Tale (Atwood)
2. The Lovely Bones (Sebold)
3. The Heavenly Table (Pollack)
4. Secondhand Souls (Moore)
5. Adulthood is a Myth (Andersen)
6. It (King)
7. Under the Banner of Heaven (Krakauer)
8. Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists and Other Sex Offenders (Salter)
9. Motherfucking Sharks (Carr)
10. The Ghost Box (Hingston & Olsen)
11. Heart and Brain (Seluk)
12. Point Your Face at This: Drawings (Martin)
13. The Evil That Men Do (Hazelwood)

I don’t feel proud of this list, but I am sharing it because I strive for authenticity. I don’t remember why I chose to keep a list. I can tell you that keeping this list has forced me (thankfully!) to evaluate how I spend my time. As I wrote in the previous entry, I do not do resolutions. What I do is self-care. The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to take care of myself and to devote time to those activities that feed my soul, those activities that truly bring me joy. I am looking forward to more reading in the coming year. Today, I have nearly finished reading 2018’s first book: Difficult Women (Gay).

If you kept a reading list in 2017 and read less than you hoped, please do not feel discouraged. I am a self-identified book worm. I love books. I want all of the books. For the first time, my checked bag was over 50# on the trip back to TX from NC. I moved my toiletry bag and a new book – problem solved. It’s a big book – a crime writing anthology edited by Harold Schechter – that I cannot wait to consume. But, I feel embarrassed by my 2017 list. It’s a new year. I will do better this year, and so will you, if you want.