A Marriage in the Context of Rape.

As an American girl in the late 80s, I wore a suit and heels as armor. My Wonder Woman tights were panty hose. I carried a briefcase. A smile was my sharpest tool, cutting me on the inside.

I’ve told the story of my first marriage dozens of times.

I was a 23-year-old salesperson burning to tackle the world. I was a runner—in every sense of the word. Usually I got away, with my autumn-green eyes sparkling and my long blonde hair flying.

My husband was a 29-year old farmer who looked like Ron Howard and reminded me of Opie, with his boyish hopes. He played volleyball. He owned four apartment buildings. He wore a toolbelt when he climbed down from a roof and introduced himself to me and my girlfriends. We were in Champaign, IL for a summer sales job with Southwestern Publishing.

I tell about leaving him after one short year of marriage and running back to the southwest. I freely paint myself as hurtful.

I add in the part about the therapist, who told me: “Look, you’re going to leave or you’re not. If you leave, you’ll break your husband’s heart and it will be up to him how he deals with it. Or, you’ll stay and dull your dreams and you’ll have to live with that.”

I immediately booked a U-Haul and convinced some “It can’t be done” guy to install a tow bar on my Honda CRX so I could move to Arizona.

As I packed, Ron Howard played Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” on the stereo. He said he’d help me do anything, but he wouldn’t help me leave him.

Fair enough. I was so giddy for my freedom, I’d carry my own damn boxes!

Actually, my friend Kevin Lentz came and helped me load the heavy stuff. Whatever I owned then filled a 5 x 8 U-Haul.

I fled the Illinois winter, oblivious to the treachery, wide-eyed and white-knuckling black ice across Oklahoma.

I was free!

That’s my story. There’s not much to a one year of marriage to a good man by a rebellious, ambitious, independent runner.

I was 24 when I married grown-up Opie. I’m now 54. I no longer call myself a runner.

I’ve invested countless hours and dollars in therapy. I paid for perspective. Looking back, I see the broader landscape.

I recognize my MeToo experience shattered something inside me. My boss raped me and that night I returned home to a man who knew only good.

I buried the secret I didn’t think he could handle, which made me feel I no longer belonged there. I didn’t belong with him.

In survival mode with the adrenaline of youth and the denial of the intimate violence against my young body, mind, and soul, I turned off feelings and ignited will power.

Now, in the context of the MeToo Movement, I see being raped as the internal landscape from which I functioned, and the elephant in the room I never mentioned—to anyone.

Keeping secrets is hard. When the truth is unbearable, we can even keep it from ourselves.

We can get up in the morning, make coffee, shower, dress, strengthen ourselves, strut into our boss’ office—the same one in which we were raped the night before—and declare ourselves invincible, to our rapist.

It’s like I took a magic eraser to his “error” of raping me. I soldiered on.

Isn’t that what guys do after their injuries?

I’m an American girl and I wanted to be the hero of my own story. I didn’t want to be the victim.

I wasn’t ready to be vulnerable, even though vulnerability proved mine when I was physically overpowered by a man I trusted.

In the face of my rape, I refused to give up my identity as strong, independent, unbreakable.

I was my mother’s daughter and she was a warrior.

Looking back, I’d been skipping on love’s path with my soon-to-be husband when I met a sales manager who would intrigue, irritate, befriend, teach, mentor, manipulate, and rape me.

That’s not how we think of our rapists. They’re not kind, helpful, smart, successful, family men. They don’t smile like our friends.

He did. No wonder I walked into the situation blindly. I’d been groomed.

I chose to walk out of the white picket fence life I briefly entertained because the truth would’ve made a worse mess than the divorce, which I came out of quick and clean.

I’m sorry for the pain I caused my first husband. I honestly believe leaving him hurt less than learning I’d been raped would’ve.

Men like to be heroes and fix things. Too late. There’s not a fix for being raped any more than for a loved one’s death. There’s only navigation.

On the night I was raped, a schism shook me into full protection mode.

As an American girl in the late 80s, I wore a suit and heels as armor. My Wonder Woman tights were panty hose. I carried a briefcase. A smile was my sharpest tool, cutting me on the inside.

How much does being raped impact a woman? Each is different, but every rape is like a head-on collision. The damage varies in degree, sometimes irreparable and not always visible.

When we see cars on the street, we have no idea how much work has been done on them. The same is true of women. And marriages.

See, it’s not just the women affected by rape; it’s also the men who love them.

What are you here to teach me, Grief?

What are you here to teach me, Grief?

Life is precious and valuable. You are strong and loved.

You can handle anything, but you’re not in control.

Trust. Dive all in—to the love, the joy, and yes, the grief.

Release the fear, pain and guilt.

Let it all flow through you. Transform.

Become new. Become more you. Over and over again. Live a life of metamorphosis.

Release the old tricks and tools that no longer serve. Stop grabbing.

Be good to your body.

Suck the marrow out of life. Take time out when you need it. Be true to you.

Honor your pain, sadness, heartache, and outrage, but don’t become them.

Learn. Forgive. Love. Hope. Pray. Cry. Laugh. Write. Dance. Read. Listen.

Appreciate. Accept. Honor. Share.

Life rolls out in seasons. You hating winter doesn’t make it any less cold.

If you’re still here., it’s for a reason. Find it. Live it. Love it.

Open to new possibilities.

How to Be Like Kevin

Kevin Fire! Lentz died March 4, 2016. He was my friend. My boyfriend. My beloved. He was a badass and together we were crazy, sexy, cool.

Call. And call again. Take the calls—even when you’re driving to dinner with your girlfriend and looking for a parking space. Take the call, especially if it’s your dad. Not because he’s 85, because he’s your dad.

Connect with people. Laugh. Let your funny be infectious.

Don’t be a hater. Speak your mind.

Apologize when you screw up. And mean it. Move on.

Own your anger. Be forthright, but be gracious.

Love women. Really love them. And music. Listen to music-LOUD! Especially the 80s. Hard rock. KISS.

But, take Etta James and the candles. Yeah, bring that old boom box to the beach. Play the game Washers.

Read. The Bible when you feel nudged. Take pleasure in reading.

Find your favorite author. Kevin’s was Lee Child, but he also read Mark Twain, JR Moehringer, and Alice Lundy.

Give people nicknames. ICE! ICE! ICE! Let it be your way of honoring them.

Pray. Out loud. In the morning. While drinking coffee and watching birds with your girlfriend.

Say, “I LOVE THAT!” often. Say, “I love you.” Write it. Bring back the art of hand-written letters.

Send kids’ Valentine’s Day cards with love to friends and family every year.

Enjoy good food. Make memories of meals, like cooking Chilean seabass at home or taking your lady to the high-class, like-you’re-in-Italy Italian Tony’s, where you used to go with your mom.

Also go to dive bars, like Villa Nova.

Bring home Taco Bell sauce packets that say, “Marry Me” and “Team Fire!” Present them like a bouquet of flowers.

Seek love. Be romantic. Be real. Dance.

Follow your passions and applaud others.

Take care of your business, but don’t be so serious. Make work fun. When it’s not, refocus. Readjust. Decide what you want and go for it.

Change. If you want to. Become better.

Be at peace with yourself. Take care of yourself. LOVE YOURSELF. And especially, BE YOURSELF. Kevin was totally himself, not imitating a soul.

Be emotionally courageous. Say: This is how I am. I have a temper and I can be selfish, but I’m the man for you.

Yeah, be a man—in the best sense of the word.

Support your team and Diva’s team and your people.

Show up. Be on time. And have some style!

LIVE your life. If it ever comes to your door, kick cancer’s ass!

Speak a unique language with your brothers—one your girlfriend couldn’t understand if she wanted to.

Make your cousin a brother and make the word brother mean something.

Give friends and family the value they deserve.

GO ALL IN. Whatever you’re doing: sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, sales, wooing a woman, loving your mom, hanging with friends, frying fish, developing relationships, telling a truth, listening… damn, Kevin could listen.

He could talk, but he could really listen.

Open doors. Pull out chairs. Hug. Hold your partner tight throughout the entire night.

Kiss too hard and love like this is your last chance and you want to get it right.

Buy little gifts. Don’t expect so much from others. Give because it makes you feel good.

Tell stories. And make them entertaining!

Hang with your boys. Be wild when you’re young, but never grow old.

Get out of the house. Travel, but spend time hanging at home, just chillin’.

Be like a kid, but be a man. Face life head on.

Be like Kevin, but you can’t. There was only one.

So, be like you. Be the wild, weird, wonderful you.

 

How Grief Lives in our Cells.

“To be broken is no reason to see all things as broken.” ~ Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

I live with my sister. We’re both in our 50s, which means we’re perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves and we value communicating and checking in with each other.

We’ve learned accidents do happen and people we love sometimes die.

We balance these not-fun facts with our inclination toward optimism.

Last night, Jayne went out with a friend, which is also a treat for me, as I relish my time alone. I used it well last night.

I skyped with an advanced editing class from my old alma mater (Metropolitan State University, Saint Paul, MN). The students asked me thought-provoking questions about my blogging process and purpose.

After the meeting, I took notes about what I learned from them and how I’ll implement some of their ideas.

Inspired by virtually being in the classroom, I dove back into a book assigned in my first politics class: American Democracy in Peril: Seven Challenges to America’s Future. How far-fetched that felt in 2002!

After reading, hunger overtook me. I noted the time: 10 pm. My sister would be walking in the door soon.

I made cauliflower rice with sautéed kale and cabbage and plopped in front of the TV.

Around 10:30, I texted my sis just to make sure she was ok. It’s not typical of her to stay out late on a “school night.”

On Scandal, the old Olivia Pope had returned—or had she? The President was going down—or was she?

My sister still hadn’t texted back. Again, not like her. She’s an IT manager and the constant bing of work messages is her norm. She’s the prompt texter backer.

I told myself she was fine, as fear felt its way into my body, the kind that says saying things are ok doesn’t make them so if they’re not.

After all, the day my boyfriend Kevin was due to arrive but didn’t, when worry hung in the air, my sister’s boyfriend said, “It’ll be ok.”

I even tried to convince myself Kevin would burst through the door, larger than life, wrap his big arms that felt like home around me, and spin some crazy story the way only he could do.

But, we were wrong. He would not be walking through my door or anyone else’s ever again. He would never tell another story with his Lentz-man vocabulary.

Everything was not alright.

My beloved died in his sleep of a heart attack. That cruel fact cannot be overridden by my mind.

The news, the truth, the day my life transformed lives in my cells. My body knows.

So, until I heard back from my sister, I suppressed the possibility of a reality I’ll never be ready for.

I didn’t even know where she went to dinner, some Mexican restaurant. She could be anywhere in the city.

God, please let her be safe.

How would I find her if she didn’t respond? I could find her friend on Facebook.

Would I call her son, the cop in Michigan to ask him what to do? Or the one here, who called the police for me and got them to search the freeways Kevin intended to drive on, and then his home where they found him in his bed?

I wouldn’t want to worry my nephews without reason, but what if my sister was in a situation where time was of the essence and could possibly save her life?

Silly, these thoughts, I tried to tell myself. I’m not a worry wart, but my mind played the sport while I simultaneously resisted the churning in my stomach.

Until Jayne’s text: “I’m sorry. I’m good. Coming home soon.”

Ah, the message of peace. I crawled into bed unscathed, tired and happy.

This morning, on her way to work, Jayne apologized again. I’ve done it to her, too. It’s no big deal.

But, then I cried because I can’t bear the thought of going through that again. And because I don’t have to.

Not now. All is well.

My sister admitted she’s been pierced by grief’s arrow threatening the worst repeating.
After all, her husband determined to beat cancer, but that day never arrived.

Like our brother who didn’t make his destination from California to Tucson and died on the side of a desert highway (car accident).

Still, I believe in the power of prayer and positive possibility.

Beautiful memories like falling in love, dancing under the stars, and splashing down water slides also dot the map of my life.

I refuse to live in the worry zone, but sometimes I take a trip there, making me grateful to return home to my current safe and sweet realty.

 

How I Broke up with Guilt.

“Guilt is not a very good motivator.” ~ Psychology Today

Dear Guilt,

You and I have been friends for as long as I’ve known Procrastination, Drinking, and Television. Guilt, we’ve become too close.

I’ve taken for granted that you’ll always be a part of me—not because that’s what I want, but because you’ve been by my side, dancing in my head, and draped around my neck for decades.

Your theory is if I’d take action, you’d leave me alone. You taunt me trying to make me act or not act a certain way.

If you inspired change, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’d be busy doing all the right things in the ideal time.

Instead, you’re like a sinus infection I can’t shake. You clog my head and slow me down.

Guilt, I don’t want to deny you your purpose. Some say you’re a wasted emotion. That’s not totally true.

As a child, when I had the habit of stealing, you and Shame showed up and helped me quit. Thank you for that.

When I ate my feelings more than speaking to my ex-husband, you guided me back to my truth.

When I worked retail and called in sick, but the only thing I was sick from was working retail, you sat with me and we had that heart to heart. You gave me insight about doing wrong and still not feeling you, Guilt—because I was striving for something more right. Thank you for the lesson.

So yes, I’ve done things and there were times your presence provided a wake-up call.

However, you’re not my true companion. I don’t need you in my life as an umbrella over everything thought, action, or nonaction.

Stop embedding yourself into my every move, from how I manage my time, to what I eat, to the gifts and opportunities I’ve been given.

Your intention is to help. But, remember when I was readying to tell my ex-husband I was leaving him and then I needed to pack all my belongings from our house? Guilt, you showed up in full force.

You were with me first thing in the morning and throughout the days. You even crawled in bed with me, pointing out everything I hadn’t yet done. You brought Shame and Judgment into my home, the one I was losing, as if I wasn’t challenged enough.

Here’s what you didn’t do: help. You didn’t help me feel better, speak clearer, or pack one damn box.

It was my readying time. I needed to gather myself, talk to God, and get grounded. But, you should all over me every day for months.

Not helpful! I may procrastinate (gather my forces), but I accomplish what needs to be done in my own time.

Deadlines help. Your constant yammering takes me farther from myself and the life I choose to live.

So, here’s the deal, Guilt. You’re welcome to visit on rare occasions, only when called for and only when I’ve actually done something worthy of your presence.

Otherwise, let’s take a break, okay?

I know you’ll be checking up on me from the sidelines. You’re like my spotter—making sure I don’t sleep with people incompatible to my soul or speak words to puff up my ego at another’s expense.

However, for the most part Guilt, I’m good. I’ve got this. You can go.

You’re welcome to visit if I collude with Russians, sleep with subordinates, or kick my dog.

But for the days I don’t do yoga, post on my blog, or get my home perfectly organized—for these types of parties, you’re no longer invited. In fact, you’re banned.

I know you want to be helpful, Guilt. So, go help somebody else (maybe a politician).

From now on, I’m hanging with Peace. We’re becoming quite close.

So, see you around, Guilt. Best wishes. May you be of benefit elsewhere.

Thoughtfully,
Alice

How to Own Your Destiny.

“We have to stop waiting to wake up.” ~ Sarah Entrup  (Inspired by 30 Days of Meditation)

I am my destiny. When I came into my mother’s womb, I restored hope.

I radiate the fullest source of my being. I always was my destiny.

I float in a lavender bubble and sparkle from within whenever I let my light shine.

When I almost died as a baby, but didn’t, I showed the world resolve. Even the nurses were amazed; I had a remarkable destiny.

I learned to ride a bike, color, climb trees, play hide-n-seek, spend time alone, and write stories about this crazy, beautiful world. I was always my destiny.

I wrote stories about squirrels, stole money, and broke rules by ditching Camp Fire Girls. I got into trouble for living my destiny and being free—and I loved it!

Later, I attracted men and love and left them to be my destiny, not my karma or drama. I had sh*t to do!

In my last life, I learned the price of contorting myself and playing it safe. Now, I live into my destiny.

I’m health and nature and joy.

I’m bringing sexy back over and over as many times as I like.

It’s my destiny, like laughter, the woods, words, and even getting hurt. Those are my growth spurts!

I am my destiny. I’m not resistance or stuckness. I’m F*ck yes! and Hello, life!

I’m knocked down; get back up.

I’m: here’s what I learned when I was down there, in there, back there, over there. Now, I’m here.

What? You say I look different? I sound different? No, baby, I’m the same. I’ve always been my destiny.

I dance with my history and lineage. There are no limits, only gifts.

The opportunity to shine into the full line of me.

You thought I forgot who I was? Ha! I tricked you! Tricked myself, too!

But, I’m back to my destiny, twirling and swirling and smiling.

Through all my lifetimes, I’ve screamed delight flying on the swings with my sisters.

And lovers? Boy, have I been lucky!

This time, I experienced the legendary love I longed for in my last life—the one I gave up my life force for, back when I went dark.

I had to make a choice then with what I knew and the times I lived. That’s when and how I made a vow to my divine destiny.

The me that I kept hidden away behind the protocol of that time protects me now.

When I walk down yesterday’s path or slip into somebody else’s destiny, mine whispers, “Not that way, this way.” Suddenly, where I was once unsure, I’m certain.

I am my destiny, not my habits or quirks. That’s just personality.

I’m royalty walking as a commoner, kissing the sweet sunshine of freedom. Incog..neato!

I breathe deep. I do Downward Dog, Upward Dog, and Destiny Dog.

I’m my destiny the way my Black Lab Phoenix is the full loving expression of herself without apology, pretense, defense, or need to analyze.

I know people need love, light, laughter, and listening. Hello, destiny arriving! No problem. Pure joy. No inconvenience. And if it is, I’ll tell you to get the f*ck out.

My destiny is not to be mean—even to myself. I’m kind and cool and lean into joy.

I let sadness flow through me when it comes, knowing it’s part of my destiny to fall and rise and realize new insights about myself and life.

This is my nature: to be transformed, shaped, and radiate today’s femininity.

Beyond definition. The divine feminine ignites birth, braves motherhood, raises people, owns beauty, and beholds grace. She makes way for messy blood and medicinal hugs.

Feminine spirit is raw, as destined as the apple seed to the apple.

She respects and dances with, but will never bow down to masculine musculature.

Because she’s not supposed to! That’s not her destiny.

That’s not my destiny. I am my destiny. My destiny is change and transcendence.

My destiny is growth, wisdom, and light. If we have to light this world on fire with hope and spirit and compassion combined with sisterly and motherly love, so be it.

We are here. This is our destiny.

We are the firefighters of our time.

We are willing to burn for better things.

We’ve been here all along. Oh, you just noticed? Well, welcome to the party.

Destiny is always on time, even when she’s late!

I am my destiny. I am words and footsteps, connections and creations.

I’m poetry and art, travel and speaking, books and teaching.

I’m as loud as hawks squawking, quiet as sunshine, and vibrant as a song called Life.

Destiny is as undeniable as the color purple, as heavy as gravity, and as well-designed as a hummingbird.

She is me and I am nature.

I smell of lavender and sway my hips like a front porch swing. I sell you truth smoother than Tennessee whiskey and make you forget time before you knew me.

I am destiny. I arrive with the current of the ocean and all the treasures within. You can pollute me, but never contain me.

I am my destiny. I am fulfillment.

I’m stories told for generations and values held by women around the world.

I’m education, expertise, respect, and truth.

I shall not yield. I need not fight. Watch me rise.

I am destiny. Unstoppable.

I storm in like winter and blossom like spring—just when you thought I was in the ground.

I am life. I am death. I am peace and anger. I am hope and happiness.

I’m the first time I roared down a dirt road alone on a four-wheeler, dust everywhere and a grin so big I caught bugs in my teeth.

Nothing you say matters, but I hear it all. Clearly. So clearly now.

I am destiny. I always have been.

 

Leaning in with Her, The American Warrior Woman.

Leaning in with Her, The American Warrior Woman.

“I want to express gratitude to all the millions of women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed, bills to pay, and dreams to pursue.” ~ Oprah Winfrey, Golden Globes Speech

Generations of American warrior women
Standing up for what’s right
Against tyranny and bullies
At the risk of…everything.

Things could go real bad real soon.
Or, we the people, could consent
To some sort of reset,
Like a ship off course.

Like adults.
Like Americans.
Like now.