Love a Veteran?

In honor of Veteran’s Day, here is a link to a brilliant 20 minute video about how to cure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you or someone you know suffers from this injury, please watch this video to learn how to feel better immediately.

 

I have always considered myself a Veteran, though I have never been in the military, I was in the war at home. Domestic Violence. Abuse and Neglect. I am a survivor.

 

One of the many different things I do to recover from my complex PTSD injury is research and read. I cannot recommend the book Sacred Contracts by Caroline Myss enough. This book has taught me so much about myself provided an excellent guideline for how to do the HARD WORK of getting to know my true authentic self.

 

This book asked me to consider what my family legacies are. What are the things that family members have been doing to each other for generations? Right away, my brain answered: we don’t talk to each other. Ever again.

 

The reality of this family legacy legitimately precludes me from ascertaining what the other family legacies might be, but recently my brain released another answer…and it hit me like a ton of bricks: we think we should kill ourselves.

 

Terrible! I know, it’s disgusting…but hear me out…

 

In my family it was understood that making a mistake (such as stuttering, dropping something, striking out at baseball, etc.) would definitely lead to an overwhelming sense of shame that would absolutely be cured by just killing yourself. Like that would be the only way to be relieved or released from your indiscretion. Living with the shame…that would be unbearable. It was a joke…I think.

 

The thing is, years later, my paternal grandfather actually did kill himself.

 

I had only met him once. I was 16 years old and cashing them both out of the express lane at the grocery store when my paternal grandmother advised: “we are your grandparents…see, we won’t hurt you.” I smiled painfully and handed them their change and receipt, as my brain processed the information. Publicly. I had never met them before even though we lived just up the street from them and walked past their house all the time. Legacy #1 Cut Ties Forever.

 

I know my paternal grandfather was a Veteran. I heard that he was disturbed by his experiences in the war and that may have lead to his decision to end his own life.  Considering suicidal ideation as a family legacy has actually helped me tremendously. It’s not me. It is a learned behavior. It can absolutely be undone.

 

suicide

 

There is no indiscretion that should cause a person to take their own life.  Every mistake can be undone with LOVE. I promise.

 

If, for whatever reason, you don’t take the time to watch the video about how to cure PTSD, I can break it down for you into 2 words: LOVE YOURSELF.  Love is gentle. Love is kind.

 

suicide

 

XO

~Rachel

 

suicide

*Haiku by Rachel VanKoughnet

“Like a horror film,

Sometimes all I see is loss

…suffocating me…”

On Brother Grief

Got brother grief? I do…

 

I want to talk about my brother, Jody.

 

I call him my brother because he literally embodied the definition of the word for me at a time when I was very confused about its meaning.

 

Brother.

 

I always had them. I am the youngest of three children and the only girl. Divorce and remarriage changed all that. In so many ways.

 

My oldest brother (by 5 years) did not speak to me from age 11 through 18. We never discussed why when we spoke from age 18 through 22 but it was always assumed that it was not my older brother’s fault at all, even though we lived in a small town of almost 2000 people. Even though I was just a little girl. I won’t ask him now, since he hasn’t spoken to me from age 22 through the present (age 32) and because I don’t care to hear the answer, I already know.

 

My other older brother (by 18 months) was the kind of best friend who, it was understood, would rather be with our older brother if he could, but since he can’t right at this particular moment, then we could be best friends as consolation. The kind of best friend who allows you to sit at his cool kids lunch table in high school but doesn’t say a word to you for that lunch hour every day for a year. WHY??? I don’t know, I always assumed it was because I was worthless, but I asked him recently and it seems to be simple high school survival behavior he deeply regrets.

 

The combination of the above two paragraphs left me in a weird spot in high school with regard to the word “brother.”

 

When I was 14 my mom and I went to go live with her boyfriend who later became my stepfather. My stepfather also had 2 sons and a youngest daughter, just like my family. Jody was 5 years older than me, like my brother Kevin, and I fell in love with him immediately. It was embarrassing. I knew we were now family, even though it would be 2 more years before our parents officially married each other; I knew it would not be appropriate to be IN LOVE with my future step-brother.

 

Sometimes I would make him food. He was so skinny. Unlike me or my brothers, Jody could eat anything and it never showed. He admitted to me a decade later that he always had to secretly throw away more than half of his plate that I prepared because he didn’t want to hurt my feelings that he couldn’t eat all of it.

 

He didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

 

I could tell. He was doing what I was doing: we were watching each other. He read, understood who I was, and he wanted to protect me. The more we got to know each other, the more clear it became that we truly understood and practiced loyalty.

 

Loyalty.

 

That word has always been among my top 5 personality traits. That word has also always haunted me. Why??? Because I was giving it and not getting it, the loyalty was not always reciprocal. I used to think that’s what drew Jody and I together: our understanding of, appreciation, and yearning for reciprocal loyalty.

 

I understand now that it’s much more than that.

 

I remember the last conversation Jody and I had together, 6 years ago now. We hadn’t seen each other in awhile and he was skinnier than ever. He lit up when he saw me. I know he lit up because not only did I see it with my own eyes, but it also reflected back into me and I actually felt warm and loved.

 

He was telling me he received my wedding save the date. I rolled my eyes like: oh that old thing and told him all discouraged that I wanted it to have been much more creative but I’m not good at that stuff so my save the date is actually kind of boring compared to what I’ve been receiving in the mail from more artistically inclined friends. Blah Blah Blah. Boring.

 

Jody shook his head slightly, smiling, and told me he had never even seen a wedding save the date that was a magnet, he described how excited he was to open my mail and be reminded that I was going to marry Chris. How he loves to see it on his fridge every day. His sincerity was so calming to me; his support was palpable.

 

Jody was always a fan of Chris. I remember when Chris and I hosted our first Thanksgiving together at our first apartment in Buffalo. For a variety of reasons, that holiday meal was extremely stressful to prepare (I won’t go into that here) but, long story short, the combination of our divorced families and the tardiness of the meal resulted in a miscalculation of wine intake and a pass (out) on dinner.

 

What I’m saying is: by the time the food finally made it to the table, Chris had to excuse himself from the table and literally never came back; therefore, I hosted our divorced families for the first time by myself.

 

If you know me, you can look right at me and know what I’m thinking. My face is very expressive. Jody watched the tension in me rise to a boiling point. He smiled at me. He told me the food was excellent. He told me he was having a great time. It was right around his Birthday so I made him a cherry cheesecake pie, a new recipe. I had asked him what he wanted for his Birthday cake and was startled when he told me no one had ever asked him that before. Cheesecake. I had never made one, but I bake pies so I made that for him special and was so worried it would be a flop.

 

We sang Happy Birthday to Jody, his son blew out the candles and, even though he was so full from dinner, he ate his entire huge piece of cheesecake. His Birthday cake. He hugged me so hard. He loved his cake! I found my smile again.

 

brother grief

 

Before he left my apartment that evening Jody told me: don’t give Chris a hard time. I looked at Jody sideways, he never told me what to do before, but Jody just smiled at me until I smiled back and said: ok.

 

That really blew me away at the time because I was like, why shouldn’t I give him a hard time?! What’s the big deal, why do you care what happens to him? Because I know Jody, I already knew the answer. Just like me, Jody could read people, and, just like me, Jody decided immediately he loved Chris.

 

brother grief

 

This is the Christmas card Jody handed us just a couple weeks later. Jody was excellent at picking out greeting cards. They were never random. The card says:

 

“For You, Sister, and your family. Your home is a happy and welcoming place where there’s love in the air and a smile on each face…”

 

I cried when I opened this card. I cried because the one thing I have ever wanted my entire life was a family of my own and I knew Jody was right: me and Chris were a family now. I cried because Jody was being my brother and I needed it. I cried because Jody’s heart was so big.

 

Chris and I always talk about the time Jody lent us his boat. It was a disaster. Something happened and the boat kept filling up with water?! We were super concerned that we were going to sink his boat and that he would be angry thinking the boat was filling up with water because of something we may have done. When we got home, Jody just laughed and said: I’m sorry that happened! He was smiling while we explained how worried we were that we had done something wrong. Jody was not at all concerned. He shrugged and said it’s ok, he would fix it. No big deal.

 

Jody could fix any boat, he was a real genius at it. Most people would at least tease the person who almost sunk their boat, but not Jody. He was very careful with my emotions. Probably why he didn’t tease me and say: blah blah blah, when I shot down his compliment of my wedding save the date magnet.

 

9-19-09. That was my save the date. It used to haunt me. I mean, who sends out a save the date over a year in advance and then dares not to get married that day? Me. Some of my friends still have that magnet on their fridge and I used to look at it as a symbol of my failure and be like: why are you doing this to me, take that thing down at once!!!

 

I don’t see 9-19-09 like that anymore. Ever since I started to embrace the grieving process, I also started to see 9-19-09 as an inevitable part of my journey. That actually did have to happen that way. I didn’t make a mistake. Not at all.

 

Today I allow myself to say: I am that person who rescheduled their wedding date due to grief. If Jody wasn’t doing 9-19-09 then neither were we. I planned a totally different wedding that did take place on 5-8-10 because life happened and I adapted. I honor my body and I do what feels right when it feels right.

 

My brother Jody is with me all the time. Even so, I still feel his absence and I still mourn our connection on this earth. I wish we could spend this Thanksgiving together and our Birthdays and Christmas. Anything.

 

I’m not done talking about my brother Jody and I never will be.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

PS: Full Disclosure: while writing this blog, I cried the whole time…on a spectrum ranging from silent stream of tears to scream sobbing; I also used my shirt as a tissue after the box of Kleenex next to me ran out.

Come As You Are

Come as you are…

 

I have a dream.

 

I dream of a world where human beings are not defined by their gender.

 

There I said it.

 

Feels good to get that out. I get in trouble a lot for saying these things. I actually have been randomly receiving a lot of hate for BEING a feminist. There is this “anti-feminist” movement online that has been following me pretty aggressively and, as you can see by their title, they are “anti-ME.”

 

That hurts.

 

I know it shouldn’t but…

 

I mean come on! It’s not ok to be a part of a group that is anti or against a group of human beings. As a feminist, I am a human being and I am not against a group of other human beings. Contrary to “anti-feminist” rhetoric, feminists don’t hate men. That’s absurd. I am married to a man and I made a son. I love these men. I would give my life up for them without hesitation. It wouldn’t even occur to me to pile up men into a group and then express hatred toward that group; that has a very nazi prison camp feel to me. Nazis hate a big group of people, too. The KKK hates a big group of people. Anti-feminists hate a big group of people. That’s unsettling.

 

Took my son to the park this weekend and posted this picture of us on Instagram:

 

come as you are

 

This is the comment I provoke:

 

IMG_6139

 

“Feminism is a sign of being weak. Your weakness will be used against you. You have been selected to be on trial of committing acts of treason if found guilty your instagram account will be band {ha ha} by reports of over 300 jurors in our internet trial court.”

 

I added the “ha ha” to the quote above because I think nafu_1st_ar meant to say “banned” instead of “band.”  Not because I am in any way laughing at the person who uses a nazi flag for their profile pic. That’s not funny.

 

I am going to be me no matter what. Even if your end game is to line up all feminists into a gas chamber, I won’t betray who I am. I am GRATEFUL to the feminists (men and women) who fought for my RIGHT to vote from 1777-1920. I will continue to express gratitude for that. Many lives were lost so that women could vote and I am grateful. If you think that I should die for that, bring it. Until then, as a sociologist and lawyer, I will use all my resources to undo the legal mess that took place between 1777-2014 as a result of REAL OPPRESSION. If you want to stop me, good luck. I don’t hate you. I’m not against human beings.

 

Come as you are.

 

come as you are

 

But don’t bring me your hate, I won’t carry that weight.

 

come as you are

 

SERIOUSLY.

 

Instead of coming onto my page and muddying up beautiful family time park pictures, explaining how I am “weak,” just keep moving along, you don’t have to bother with me.  Obviously, if I’m so “weak,” right?  What’s the point?

 

LOVE always wins.

 

XO

~Rachel

The Net Epiphany

I had an epiphany on my drive from Las Vegas to San Diego. I was upset. Husband, Mother In Law, you name it. Too upset even for music in the car, I was driving to the rhythm of my own hurt stories repeating in a loop inside my head. Then I saw it, barely, a flicker of blurry movement in the top right hand corner of my view of the clear blue sky. What is that…but I already knew. True deja vu. I actually smiled.

 

Why are you smiling?!

 

It’s not real.

 

What’s not real?

 

Anything. That flicker in the sky, you know what it means: this is a test, this whole thing, it’s all made up for you. You see, but what will you do?

 

I will tell everyone.

 

And so it began.

 

When I arrived in San Diego, I had a lot of girl talk for my dear friend, Libby, but nothing more important than what I was about to say out loud for the first time.

 

Listen to me very closely: we are slaves. I saw it in the sky, it ‘s not a glass ceiling; it’s an illusion that changes all the time so we don’t figure it out.

 

“Like a net,” Libby knew, she didn’t ask.

 

Yes it’s a net, a trap. We are stuck in it all the time, all women. The evidence is right there in our history books but we are not allowed to draw the conclusion. Decades after black men won the right to vote, women were begrudgingly included in that same right. Women went from being property to being able to own property in our law books. Our bodies are always at risk of eminent domain with the prevalence of rape and the lack of resources. Make a baby, but don’t feed it from your breast in front of us. We are slaves. Right now. We will never emancipate if we don’t know we are slaves.

 

That night Libby and I went to see a world premier play at La Jolla Playhouse, written by the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama. Nothing could have described the net better than this play and the reaction of the people in the audience. The misogyny was palpable. The recurring theme of the heroine’s sister submitting to a decade of anal sex in an effort to preserve her virginity and religious integrity repeatedly caused the audience to group belly laugh. I thought about jumping from the top row of the risers to the floor below so that I could escape the theatre as quickly as possible.

 

Once you see, you can’t unsee. Every single day that has gone by since discovering the net on 2-16-14, it has become more evident to me. My friend Libby suffers from the same anguish the realization has caused me, but she has used her talents to spread the word to another young woman and my heart tells me soon we will all know and be able to see.

 

I’m going to write a play of my own. About the net. About female slavery. About love. I will shine my light on this darkness until the whole world sees it and then I will continue to shine my light on it until the darkness is gone forever. This blog is my first step and I am grateful to anyone who accepts the planting of this seed.

 

XO

~Rachel

Heal your Self, heal the world

epiphany