Once more, with feeling -

It's been 11 (!) months since I tasked myself with BlogHer's NaBloPoMo challenge. The idea then was to push myself back into blogging and, perhaps more importantly, just writing regularly outside of work.  I was also motivated because I'd just signed up for the BlogHer14 conference and figured if I was going to go to a conference that was all about blogging and social media, well then I better up my blogging and social media game.

It was tough but also fun and sometimes revealing--it's interesting what we force out of ourselves when pushed. 

As a result of both the challenge and the conference I made some new friends and also witnessed just how the medium can change someone's path. At BlogHer I met people who had parlayed their blogs into new careers, book deals and more.

Which is not why I'm doing this. I'm doing this just to write.

In truth, I actually thought I'd spend November doing NaNoWriMo but then we planned two trips--including a six-day Texas visit--and suddenly that didn't seem very feasible. Because blogging may be a commitent to more writing but NaNoWriMo is a commitment to an intense schedule and word count and there's no point in setting one's self up for failure. (That's a blog post for another day, by the way--the state of The Book and its ever-changing moods).

So, anyhoo. Here we are, November 1. Blogging. Every day. Let's do this.


By now, we all know the story.
Well, we know part of it at least. We know the chapter of the story revealed via a few moments of grainy elevator footage on a video released by TMZ. We know that Ray Rice once hit his fiancée so hard that it knocked her out cold. We know that he dragged her unconscious body out of the elevator, that he pulled her by the arms as if she were a piece of furniture instead of a human being, much less the woman he supposedly loved.
We also know that just one month later that woman married Ray Rice.
Not surprisingly then, as the NFL and the rest of that world reacted to the release of that video, many people questioned Janay Rice. Why on earth would someone stay in an abusive relationship--much less marry that person?
I can't speak for Janay Rice, but I can say this: The answer can be as simple as it is complex.
Those answers came into focus as thousands took to Twitter to share their experiences through #WhyIStayed.
The stories, all told in 140 characters or less, were powerful, with recurring themes of self-loathing, a sense of worthlessness, a fear that life without that person would somehow be worse than with him (abuse can be propogated by both genders of course, but overwhelmingly it's a man-on-woman crime).
Another Twitter topic soon followed, #WhyILeft. Here, abuse victims explained what finally made them (willingly or not) to leave the relationship.
For the last few days I have read through these posts with respect.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 31 percent of women in the United States have been physically abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. That number is from the agency’s recently released National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.
My guess is that the real numbers likely reflect just a fraction of the truth. Because if there's a common thread among those who've been abused, it's that we tend to blame ourselves and, thus, we keep our goddamned mouths shut about it.
Out of fear, out of shame, out of confusion.
That's certainly at least one reason why I stayed. The reasons are many. The reasons are complex--too complex to fully do justice to here, but I can at least give you some of the bullet points that highlight the lowest points of my life:
  • I felt alone, like I had nobody else
  • I worried about being able to survive, financially
  • I felt shame for "allowing" myself to be treated that way in the first place, a shame that kept me captive in a vicious holding pattern
  • He loved me. We were better than this.
  • He could change
  • I should change
  • It was my fault anyway
And then finally I left. The list of reasons why is shorter:
  • I'd rather be alone than dead
  • I'd rather be broke and destitute than dead
  • My family loved me; they wanted me around
It's been upwards of 20 years since I finally left that relationship for good but the remains of it still haunt me. Do you know how many times I've asked myself why I stayed? For the record I don't need anyone's goddamned judgement, I can shame myself just fine.
For years I mostly refused to even acknowledge that relationship. I divided my life in two: Then and Now. I made new friends--leaving behind, very consciously, many of the people who represented even the shallowest part of that old life. It would take me years--years--before I even admitted to most people that I had been in that relationship, much less what it had amounted to. It would be years before I could talk about the kick to the ribs, about the punch to the jaw, about the time the neighbors called the police, about all the times I didn't tell someone what was happening to me.
I still have nightmares about it. Sometimes--more often than I'd even like to admit--I still blame myself for staying. I should have known better.
But it's never that simple.
There are so many things I'm not telling you here. So many details. So many stories about the worst moments and also about the moments of  ephiphany that changed my life. I'm not sharing those right now, not so much because it's still hard to recount them, but because this is not just my story, it's not just Janay Rice's story. It's every woman's story.
The details are just the devils here.
Don't ask someone why she stayed. Why she still stays. Instead offer a nonjudgemental lifeline. One that is extended 24 hours a day, seven days a week without question. Offer an ear. Offer a hand. Offer refuge. Or offer nothing other than unconditional acceptance.
Sometimes even that is enough to help pull someone through.


On Sharing Why Robin Williams' suicide shook me to the core

Back in March, in the wake of L'Wren Scott's suicide, I wrote a blog post about my struggles with depression and times in my life when I've felt suicidal.

Today, in the wake of Robin Williams' suicide, I updated that post and posted it to Huffington Post. You can read it here.

Honestly, I wasn't going to share that post. It's even more personal than the first one. After I hit "publish" I felt weird and then I decided it would just get lost on HuffPo and that would be that. The post wasn't pinned to the site's front page or any other prominent spot. Essentially, if I wanted others to see it I'd have to share it. So I decided I wouldn't.

Two hours later I received an email from a Today show producer who'd read it and wanted me to share my story for a segment on Williams, depression and suicide.

Later that evening I talked to another producer who told me she'd lost someone to suicide and my post brought tears to her eyes.

It's still difficult for me to share this but I think it's important. Not so much because it's my story--but because it's the story of so many other people, too.

So, yeah, I might be on the Today show. Then again, maybe I won't. That's not really the point here.

The point is survival.