[Content Warning for Sexual Assault]
Who we are and what has happened to us shapes the way we see the world, and this is a lens I never expected to have to stare through. I feel like my inner conductor has switched to a completely different station. The things I worry about have changed. My first morning thoughts, the last ones before bed, what wakes me up in the middle of the night. Who I notice walking on the street - the group of teenagers waiting beside me for the subway, laughing at something on someone's cell phone: I fiercely want them to know their worth and beauty. A little girl in a stroller pointing out a passing dog to her dad: I pray as I pass them that her innocence and wonder will stay intact. Trigger words when girlfriends are speaking about their relationships: I have little patience for men who fail to see their radiance. My receptors are all on high alert at all times. I am feeling, deeply, all things.
I get tired easily. Every day I am tired. What has become the most exhausting is the autopilot greeting, "hihowareyou?" We get asked this all the time: my local barista and shopkeeper, the cashier at the grocery store. With each innocent ask I take inventory of every single organ: my heart is on fire. There are stones in my gut. There is Every Injustice Ever Done To Women in the tension in my shoulders. There is a tornado of worries and blank stares in my brain. Are we prepared for all of the answers when we ask this question?
I was supposed to go to a baby shower of an old and dear camp friend the week after the assault. I couldn't figure out how to be in a room with people who I have known for years but I'm not in close, frequent contact with. I couldn't figure out what the scripted update was supposed to be. I didn't want to talk about it, it would be inappropriate to talk about it, how could I not talk about it? How do you possibly share, "A great injustice has been done to me"? How do you not?
I guess this is what grief feels like. Something has been lost and something has changed, and I will not be the same. How do I maneuver through this with the outside world?
I used to identify as being made of water, being a west coast girl and all; the sea is what has taught me and drawn me, calmed me, it so immediately brings perspective and peace. There has been a definite elemental shift though; I am now a girl made of fire. My bones are the kindling and my heart is the hearth. I have become more attuned with the suffering of the world; there is so much work to be done. The inferno is not okay with these very real, very serious events happening around us: a sex offender is president-elect of the United States. The sacred ground of Standing Rock is being bastardized by greed. I am feeling them in a new way than I ever have, and I do not want to look away.
What I have realized is that my story of injustice isn't MY story. There is Injustice and there is Suffering, and it belongs to all of you, and me, and them, and us. The narrative needs to shift that each of us is in this singular, subjective journey. The earth and its inhabitants belong to all of us - this is for each of us to carry.