That Summer When I Was Ten

***Trigger Warning: This post is very raw for me, and it contains some mildly graphic descriptions.  Please be aware that this post could be a trigger for some.***

It was summer.  For any ten year old, summer means two things: no school, and tons of time with friends.  For me, it meant those things, as well.  But it meant something else, too.  You see, my dad was in school, working toward a degree in Meteorology.  My mom was working full time, so during the summer, my dad took time off from school to watch us, so that my brothers and I wouldn’t have to go to daycare.  In theory, this was a perfect setup.  We got to stay home for two months, playing outside and watching old sitcoms, lounging around in our pajamas until whatever hour we felt like changing into play clothes.  And that’s pretty much how it went for my brothers.  For me, there was a different routine.

You see, every morning that my mom went to work, my dad invited (translation: forced) me to join him in our family room for daddy-daughter time.  At the start of the summer, this felt like the most special time for me.  I had always been a daddy’s girl, ever since my mom married my step-dad when I was five.  Never having met my biological father, and having had a rough start to life with my mom’s first husband, I had embraced this man with an open heart.  He was my daddy, and I was his baby girl.  Like all daddy’s girls, I knew I could get my way most of the time with a bat of my eyelashes and an extra tight squeeze around his waist.  At ten years old, I thought of this behavior as playful and loving.  I would come to realize much later in life that my dad received it as flirtation.  So when our private morning times began, I secretly felt like the “favorite” when my dad wouldn’t let my brothers come into the room while we sat and watched The Price Is Right together.

I can’t remember when the change started happening.  At some point that summer, my dad began having me sit on his lap while we watched TV, instead of sitting next to him on the couch.  I remember feeling uncomfortable because he was always just in his robe and underwear.  But I thought, even at that young age, that there must be something wrong with me that I would feel weird about sitting on my dad’s lap.  After all, he seemed perfectly happy and didn’t act like it was weird at all.  So I grinned and snuggled and acted like I was happy, too.  Sometimes my brothers would try to come into the family room, either to tell on each other for something, or to ask for a snack, or if they could go play outside.  Every time they would try to come in, especially if I was sitting on my dad’s lap, he would yell at them to get out.  That started feeling weird to me after a while, too.  But who was I to question my dad’s authority?

One morning, I came into the family room with a nervous request.  The day before, a friend had invited me to go to the movies with her and her family.  I had completely forgotten to ask my parents while my mom was home that night.  So there I was, at my morning visit with my dad, and I had to ask him if it was ok for me to go.  I wasn’t nervous that he would say no.  I somehow knew what I would have to do to get him to say yes, and that made me nervous.

It was the first time I remember kissing my dad on the mouth.  We might have exchanged a mutual peck on the lips, like most parents do with their little ones, before.  But this was different.  This was…

“Daddy, can I please go with Susan and her parents to the movies today?” I held my breath.

“I don’t know, baby, it’s going to cost you.” He grinned.

“I have money, daddy.  I have it saved up in my bank.” Problem solved.

“No, I don’t mean it will cost you money.  It’s going to cost you something else.”  He touched my leg and I shuddered.  I didn’t know why.  “It’s going to cost you a kiss.”

“Ok!” I bounced in for a peck.  That was easy!

“No, this is going to cost you a much better kiss than that.” Silence, and that grin.

I had never kissed a boy, but I knew what he meant.  I felt something similar to what you feel when you lean in for that first real kiss with your middle school crush.  But it didn’t feel like butterflies.  It felt like rocks, pelting the inside of my gut as I slowly moved my face toward my dad’s mouth.  His lips were a little wet, and they were opened just enough that he was able to close them around my lips as we met.  It felt like a year that I sat there, not moving a muscle, completely unsure of what I was supposed to do next, praying that this would be enough.  Finally, my dad pulled away from me, picked me up, and plopped me down on the couch next to him.

That time, it was enough.  I got my movie date.  And for a short time, my dad didn’t have me sit on his lap during our morning times.  We sat side by side, watching The Price Is Right, and I wondered why I had felt so weird about what had happened between us.  After all, it was just a kiss.


This is the first time I can remember second guessing my instincts.  I knew something was really wrong, but I told myself that I was making a big deal out of nothing.  Because he was my dad, he loved me, he was a grown up, I never told him I was uncomfortable, and a million other excuses that floated through my head.  That summer developed into a pattern of me second guessing my intuition, until I no longer listened to it at all.

That feeling isn’t unique to an innocent 10 year old girl and her experience.  As adults, we ignore our instincts all the time, and we justify other people’s poor behavior with a million different excuses.  He’s my boss, she’s my friend, I don’t want to be embarrassed, maybe I’m reading this all wrong… Certainly, if a child confides in you that they feel uncomfortable about ANYTHING, please listen to them.  Children don’t tend to make stuff up that makes them feel uncomfortable.  But even if it’s not a child.  Even if it’s your own head telling you something is off, or a relationship isn’t right for you, or a work environment is weird, LISTEN.  Listen to that still, small whisper in your head telling you to run.  Listen to that voice that says you shouldn’t be talked to that way, or looked at that way, or asked to do those things, or told not to do those things.

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I was given a book years ago by a dear friend who helped me through one of the toughest situations I’ve faced as an adult.  I was struggling with a LOT of self doubt, and I was faced with making some big decisions that I was scared to death I would mess up.  My friend gave me a book called The Gift Of Fear by Gavin De Becker.  It was one of the most insightful books I have ever read.  If you struggle with self doubt, with second guessing yourself, please go get this book and devour it.  And please know that your mind was created to function FOR you, not against you.  You are so much smarter and braver than you think, and you are capable of making the BEST decisions for YOU that nobody else can.  No go be bold and love yourself!

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This Shame Of Pain

Drip.  Drip.  Plop, plop.  Drip.

As I sat with my face plastered into the table at my chiropractor today, tears began steadily falling to the floor beneath me.  I was in so much pain.  I injured myself at work recently, and it was kind of like salt in the wound of an older injury, compounded by my stubborn nature to push through and ignore the blaring warning signs to stop pushing myself.  The result is that I woke up two days ago and couldn’t move my neck without a million knives stabbing every nerve ending I have.  If you’ve never waited tables, your body should be thanking you right now.  My chiropractor and her husband (they run a practice together) are AMAZING doctors, and as she pushed and massaged and shifted, she could hear my tears and she kept asking, “Am I hurting you?  Is this too painful?”  It wasn’t.  At least, not enough to make me cry.  I have a fairly high tolerance for pain (in this case, it was my demise because it caused me to wait far too long to do anything about the pain I’ve been in).

My tears had nothing to do with my physical feelings, and everything to do with how ashamed I was that I was feeling pain at all.  I was so angry that I couldn’t fix myself, that I hadn’t figured out a way to brush this off.  I was embarrassed that I had given up yet another shift because I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep from wincing every time I tried to carry anything with my left arm, and I didn’t want my co-workers, and more importantly, my bosses, to see me weak.  Was I being dramatic?  Was I making a bigger deal out of my pain than it really was?  What if people found out why I gave my shift up and thought I was faking?  After all, I never show how much pain I’m in at work, and now all of a sudden I can’t work at all?  What would everyone think?  These self-shaming thoughts overwhelmed my head until they flooded over into my tear ducts and onto my chiropractor’s floor.  And then, of course, I was ashamed that I was crying over nothing.

Why do we beat ourselves to a bloody pulp over things that are completely out of our control?  Why do we insist on blaming ourselves for naturally occurring, and perfectly normal, human reactions.  We get injured, we feel pain.  We see something sad, we get weepy.  Somebody wrongs us, we feel anger.  These are natural reactions to the broken world that we live in, and yet we feel a weight on our shoulders to mask every bit of human response we feel.  And when we’re unable to mask what we feel, we call ourselves failures, either publicly, or worse, in the deepest, darkest parts of our souls.  I know I’m not alone in this behavior, because I see and hear it all the time around me.  A co-worker of mine called herself a baby the other day because she couldn’t stop crying over a customer being rude to her.  Her feelings were deeply hurt, and she was ashamed of that.  I’ve heard women gossip about how upset they are at a friend for something that friend did to hurt them.  But they refuse to confront the other party because they are so afraid of being “petty”.  Their gossip isn’t malicious, it’s simply the only way they feel comfortable releasing their feelings.  We’ve been trained to need validation from everyone around us to justify that we FEEL things.  But why?  Why do we need anyone else to tell us that it’s ok to not be ok?

My Freshman year of high school was a nightmare.  I had been hiding this big, dark secret from the world for years, and it was starting to wear me out.  One day, I was on a bike ride with one of my best friends.  We stopped at this boy’s house and even though I knew I wasn’t allowed to go inside, we did anyway.  It was an innocent 10 minutes of hanging out watching my friend’s crush play video games.  As we headed back out to our bikes in his front yard, I saw my dad drive by, staring at me as he passed.  I knew how much trouble I was in.  For most kids, a heavy scolding or a few extra chores might have been sufficient punishment for my offense.  But my dad and I had a different type of relationship, and I knew this was the end for me.  He drove on and I knew he would be waiting for me at home.  I burst into tears and my entire body started convulsing.  My friend, having no clue what was wrong with me, other than recognizing my dad’s truck had just gone by us, simply sat down by my side and held me.  She held me and said, “it’s going to be ok.”  She didn’t get weird, she didn’t leave me to deal with my freak out moment on my own.  She didn’t judge me or even tell the whole school the next day how dramatic I was.  She just sat by my side and loved me.  And even though I knew what was coming, in that moment I felt completely safe to just be me, and to show my pain without feeling any shame for it.

I don’t know when we all grew up so much that we stopped feeling safe around each other.  I think we, as a society, have created this merry-go-round of shame, where we feel it so we project it onto those around us, and on and on the cycle goes.  I know I’m guilty of shaming others for their natural reactions, for judging those who don’t react or feel things the same way I do.  But I want to do this less, and I would love it if you would join me.  Could you comment below and share a time this week when you saw someone struggling with shame and you chose to build them up and remind them that their feelings are valid and ok?  I know we often even feel shame for bragging on ourselves when we do good, but this is something I believe is worth bragging about!  Let’s share our stories and encourage each other to keep building our world up instead of constantly tearing each other down.

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This Tangled Heart Of Mine

People start blogs for all sorts of reasons.  Some bloggers are incredibly talented cooks, crafters, story-makers, and they want to share their gifts with the world, and the world wants to enjoy those gifts!  Some bloggers have a knack for being in the know, and that is certainly a gift that is in high demand.  Some have twenty cats, and take lots of pictures, and we eat that shit up.

But who starts a blog to bear their soul to a world of strangers?  Who would be crazy enough to share their deepest, darkest secrets, those details of their life that they cringe at just thinking about, with any and everyone who feels like reading about them?  What kind of person would CHOOSE to become completely vulnerable on a level that has only ever proved to be extremely painful and difficult, and for what purpose?

Hi, I’m Jennifer.  I’ve suffered quite a bit, and I’ve caused quite a bit of suffering.  I’ve been a victim of terrible choices, and I’ve made choices that have had terrible affects on others.  I’ve experienced some really terrific moments, and I’ve been fortunate to know some really terrific people.  I have a lot to heal from, and a lot to mend.  And I don’t think I’m alone in any of this.  In fact, I KNOW that my story is as common as it is unique.

So here’s what I hope:  I hope that someone in who-knows-where, Kansas reads this blog one day and she feels a little less alone in her journey.  I hope that he reads one of my posts and chooses to make one better choice for himself that day.  I hope my words convince her that she is SO worth being loved.  And I hope he chooses to love himself a little more than he did before.  I hope that as I seek to untangle this heart of mine that has been buried under thorns for so many years, it will somehow ripple out to others who have their own tangled messes.  And I hope that we can untangle together.

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