Gender Introspection

I find myself wary of men. There are very few men in my life whom I trust, and of whom I have no scruples. Those include my brother, my therapist, my theater friend, my semi-retired professor friend, and the ever-faithful friend who offers me a therapeutic one-sided friendship and is always there for me when I need him. Oh, and my psychiatrist, although, I’ve only known him for half a year, our visits are seldom and short, and I can’t quite gauge his intentions. And then every once in awhile a new male will come in, and then out, of my life. It’s usually when I try dating, and the time spans of knowing them are very brief.

I currently have a new man in my life. I am hoping that a friendship will develop. He has already expressed interest in me that goes beyond friendship but I have stayed firm in setting my boundaries. No touching, for example, and only a light side-hug when greeting. I met him in class and he was ever-so-persistent in asking me to come out with him all semester. I finally did this month and it was entertaining. Yet, I don’t know what his intentions are. He professed the desire to kiss me, yet he doesn’t know who I am and what makes me “me”, so in wanting to kiss me is he then to be merely acting out a fantasy, as a means to an end of a day-dream?

In pondering this person who has recently entered into my life, I have been communicating with my friend, the theatre professor. We know each other intimately, have been in contact for over eight years, and most recently solidified our close friendship a year and a half ago. His response to this situation? “He’s crazy. Keep him out of your house. You know the answer. Too many red flags”. Now, I’m very glad that this person does not know about my blog, else he might read this and become upset. But, I am anonymous here though some friends and family know about my public writing. It allows me to stay honest and bare to my few unknown audience members.

This person wants to become a drug counselor. Similar path to mine. He seems fairly unstable, although he is the one who called me unstable. I take it as an insult because he doesn’t know me. He’s constantly hopping between jobs. His ex-girlfriend still lives with him in his one-bedroom apartment and sleeps on the couch. He isn’t even a year sober. He seems to need a lot of validation, likes attention, is too quick to disclose intimate details of his life. Doesn’t seem to know boundaries when they are set. Keeps trying to push the line between friendship and other, whereas I see him more of a project, a client who would benefit from a one-sided therapeutic relationship. Is that bad? Are there too many red flags? After all, I do want to expand my circle of friends. And in getting to know someone, we always have certain preconceived notions about a person, until we know them better, then those initial images shift and take on a different life altogether.

He wants to come over (yes, for the third time he is inviting himself over to my place) and cook me dinner. His justification? “I like to cook and you seem like you have enough to worry about. Me making you a delicious dinner will make us both feel better.” Why does he feel the need to justify his intentions in that manner? Yes, I did ask him why, what his motivation was to want to cook me dinner. But what does he really want? Why does he feel the need to come over to my house? It is a more intimate setting than outside, and he has already told me that he is frugal, thus, dinner out would be beyond his normal reach. But what is he hoping to accomplish? Is he trying to impress me? Does he feel that he needs to take care of me and help me, thus diminishing my insistence on total independence and establishing my own identity? In what way does he relate to me? Does he feel empathy and compassion for some of my past history which he came to know about through being in class with me? He did see me get taken away by cops earlier this year for suicidal ideation and that didn’t turn him away. In no way am I, however, gratified by this knowledge.

I trust a few men in my life. To me, I don’t see them as “men” but as people and fellow human beings, who are interested unselfishly in my well-being. I can share anything with them and it doesn’t turn them away. They are genuinely empathic. But I suppose my general view of men is that one, they have a penis, and two, they usually consider themselves to be in a superior and authoritarian position over women. In my marriage, I was completely objectified and not valued as a person or as the true “me”. That is my experience. I don’t always like the fact that I have breasts and a vagina. Sometimes I wish we could all be gender-neutral and perhaps, non-sexual beings. But that is far from the truth of society and living in this world. Humans are extremely sexual beings, and we are constantly defining our place in the world, among males and females, or sometimes, as something in-between the two. But depending on which genitalia one has, determines a set of standards one “should” abide by in society.

Personally, I judge negatively women who wear loads of makeup and high heels. I don’t see the need to spend extra time on one’s looks, and to what end? For other people? Those “other” people could probably care less! Why walk around in uncomfortable heels, constricting the ability to walk properly, when one could just as well wear flats and be comfortable? I will have to get rid of this negative perspective over time. I used to be one of those people who wore heels, but the need for looking “pretty” for other people is useless to me now. I like who I am and I could care less about what other people think about my looks. I just want to be comfortable. I’m not skinny, not comfortable in bathing suits. I wear clothes that actually fit me and don’t show too much skin. I don’t want to allow myself to be objectified. Eventually I may want to dye my hair when it goes grey. But I don’t get my nails done, don’t wear obtrusive perfumes, don’t regularly get my hair cut. Low-maintenance is my motto and I am biased to thinking that other women should conform to this motto as well. Because, why not?

I suppose one part of this is me trying to define myself and my sexuality via the relationships with other people, be they men or women. The ladies at my office often look as if they spend at least an hour on their hair every morning. Me? I roll out of bed and in ten minutes I’m ready to go to work. I’m sure as a woman becomes a mother, looking good becomes less important than making sure the child’s needs are adequately met. Bodies gain stretch marks and increase in weight. It’s a normal process in the life of a woman.

I’ve recently started talking about sex again. In therapy, I’ve made some comments about my past sexual trauma, which led my therapist to saying in a caring manner that he hopes one day I can have a sexual relationship with a man that is caring and loving. I’m not exactly sure how he put it, but it felt nice to hear it, and to have my feelings towards the eventuality of having a sexual relationship normalized. I am normal for thinking about the possibility of having a sexual relationship. After all, procreation is one of our survival instincts. We have to have sex in order to create babies, the next generation. I would just as soon, however, adopt. I don’t feel the need to necessarily go through the process of being pregnant and going through a birth. There are so many children in the world who need a mom (and a dad, for that matter). My therapist told me that being a single mom is very difficult and I have heard it from various other people. Having a partner in raising a child is much more ideal.

Finding myself is a constant process that is never over. As I am exposed to more people, the more opportunities I have to define myself as to who I am and who I am not. I have judgments and conform to believing in stereotypes. But the more I get to know a person the more I can release hold of those stereotypes. In fact, women are beautiful in all shapes and sizes, of all colours and ages. We all have had a mother, a grandmother, perhaps an aunt or a female mentor. There are all kinds of women who do different things. Annie Leibovitz’s book of “Women” is a beautiful example of the diversity of women that exist. Women, who are exploring their sexual identity. One does not have to have sex to explore one’s identity. There are many ways to explore it. I find the safest place to do this is in talking with my psychotherapist. But it has also, in the past, been in having photos taken of myself and then by looking at them, in flirtatious gestures, in the way I have dressed over time, in the way that I carry myself.

Okay, I guess what this also comes down to is that I never want to be abused again. There may be other men who objectify me, and I cannot do anything to change that. But I can change the way I act in face of that fact, in the way I greet strangers, in the way I relate to people in my life in terms of professional and personal relationships. I have the power and I’m never going to let it go.

Sex Trade

I am not silent. I have a voice. That voice is expressed through words and contains inflection and emotion. I want to have more of a voice. I want people to know what happened to me. I am tired of defending what was wrong. He no longer deserves that kind of protection. He is probably abusing other young women as I type. He probably is still in possession of child pornography. He is still addicted to sex where I have been abstinent for four years now.

I am waiting to hear back from the District Attorney’s office. Four years later, now that I am no longer suicidal, I am ready to tell my story. I want to tell it in court, and it would have to be in front of the man who committed those crimes against me. Because we were married it is considered to be “domestic violence” and the maximum charge is only four years in prison. I believes he deserves a longer sentence, although, if convicted, he would have to live with the tarnished reputation for the rest of his life, which would be his lasting sentence. That could be devastating to his ego.

There is no saying that the DA will accept re-evaluating my case. I would have to convince a jury of 12 people that the acts he committed against me were indeed crimes. The triggering event for all of this coming up again was that I heard from my divorce attorney a few weeks ago. Apparently his company sold, and because I was married to him I am owed some money for the sale of some options of stock. There is a disagreement as to how much he owes me, and to me it’s significant. Our attorneys have been communicating back and forth and some of it got kind of ugly, with threats written out in plain writing. Scare tactics and intimidation, and use of power. His lawyer is doing everything to stand his ground as is my lawyer hers.

To me, it’s not about the money. It’s money I was not expecting to get, never thought I would receive. I was just making it by month to month, paycheck to paycheck, and focusing on living a stable life, free of hospital visits for suicide attempts and suicidal ideation. To me, it’s about the fight. I’m happy to pay my lawyer $350 an hour, because that’s what she charges, to take on this fight for me. It’s not even about winning, because eventually there will be a settlement. It’s about making his life hell for a few months. I hope it’s even somewhat upsetting to him. I hope it costs him money. After all, he’s worth a million dollars now after the sale of his company. I’m getting pennies to that.

I have been watching documentaries on YouTube which I know are bad for me. I watched some films on prostitution, sex trade, suicidal people, rape victims, and prison inmates. There is so much out there on the internet and it’s not hard to find. I spent an entire evening, six hours straight, watching these images and hearing these stories. I now feel empty on the inside and wish I had some alcohol in the house to numb that feeling. I haven’t had alcohol for about three weeks now.

For six years I lived in an abusive marriage, and at the time, I didn’t see it as abusive. Being paid to have sex with strange men with no protection? Sure. I’ll do anything for you because I love you and cannot live without you. Living without you would be the end of the world. So I’ll let you prostitute me out, your own wife, for your sick pleasure whilst you watch on, hidden behind the dark bedroom door, looking through the crack and your wife having sex with a man, an act which you set up. You went on the internet, pretended to be me, sent them naked pictures of me to lure them in, and get them to pay to have sex with me.

His friends didn’t have to pay to have sex with me. I was given to them for free. I still remember their names, burned into my memory. He told his close, gay friend, all about these encounters. To him, it was entertainment! A good story to tell. I never spoke. I just listened to him talk me up, objectify me, put me on a pedestal of sex. My whole life was about sex. I’ve had unprotected sex with about 300 men over the span of that six years. Until I couldn’t take it any longer, and I started to become more and more self destructive, cutting myself, drinking alcohol, and finally, my first of many suicide attempts.

Now, several years later, where does that leave me? My therapist helps me to be aware of the fact that these stories of my past, they are just memories. They aren’t happening any longer. My life is different now. I can choose my own path in life, can choose the people with whom I associate myself, can choose to have my own friends (I never had my own friends when I was with him because he turned them away and kept me socially isolated so that no one would discover his deviant, dualistic lifestyle), I can earn my own money, pay my own rent and bills, and most importantly, I can choose to do with my body what I want. It’s my body and it doesn’t belong to anyone else. Hence the abstinence. I cut sex out of my life a long time ago. I was so traumatised by the events of those years that I couldn’t even use a tampon until the fourth year out. I didn’t want to put anything inside of me. Best of all, I made it out alive.

Today was a typical Saturday. I went to bed at 1 am, woke up at 9 am but stayed in bed dozing in and out of sleep until 2:30 pm. A friend, though I’m wary of his intentions and don’t know if he’s actually a friend, got me up and out by texting me, “say yes to life”. That was the phrase which finally did it. I went out, picked him up since he doesn’t have a car, and we went to an area of town he had never been before. We stood on a cliff and admired the beauty. It was a cool, windy, overcast day. I wanted to stay with him longer, but unfortunately he claimed to be tired and wanted to go home. Then I came home, ate some leftovers, and proceeded to watch films that are bad for my mental health. Why did I do that? To harm myself? To traumatise myself? To put myself in a bad mental state? Why would I do it?

I didn’t have much to eat today. I’ve lost five pounds in two months, unintentionally. It’s neither good nor bad, here nor there. I haven’t been exercising. I’m wasting my monthly membership to the gym.

I think about the places I’ve lived. Close to downtown in a shady neighbourhood. In an expensive one-bedroom apartment in the suburbs. In a house with many people and constantly being supervised, staying married to my bed almost 24 hours a day. Now this. My own apartment, shared with one roommate, who is actually nice to me. I’ve gone through a lot of experiences in the last four years and looking back, it’s hard to fathom. I often feel as if I still belong in a hospital, and that I should have been institutionalized. But then where would that leave me? A loss of freedom for one year, being taken care of the state as my custodian, and then put into a group home for rehabilitation back into society. Getting a job would have been even more difficult. I cannot imagine. And I wouldn’t have gotten to see my therapist of eight years because of being locked up in the institution. I wouldn’t have gotten to make friends and probably would have had very few visitors, if any. I would still be bankrupt.

It disgusts me that people can commit crimes and still live with themselves. Especially if they don’t get caught. Then they keep on repeating the same offenses and the same patterns of relationships. Sex was a means of gaining control, of asserting his power, of possessing and owning me. It wasn’t about love. It never was. It was about personal accomplishment in a messed up way.

I’m probably going to stay in bed late on Sunday as well, though I promised someone I would see them. Also, another new friend. I’m lucky she’ll even speak to me, because at present I feel worthless. The more I think about the past, as it’s come up again due to the divorce litigation, the worse I feel. It’s not happening to me now. I have that to hold on to.

The likelihood is that we’ll lose the case. There will be no trial by jury, he will not spend time locked up, and I will only get a little bit of money. But at least we, me and my lawyer, we put up a fight. It wasn’t for nothing. It was about preserving my strength and dignity. It’s about establishing my identity and becoming me again. It’s about justice. I do not think this is about revenge, this strain of thought pattern, but I am finally feeling and able to somehow express my anger at what happened to me. I am not a victim, but a survivor.

My Loneliness

Classes are finished for the semester and all of a sudden I feel lonely during my evenings. Although it was only twice a week they occupied my mind most days and most evenings. I was always reading a text book or writing a paper. Now I feel as though I have nothing. I feel empty again. I’m supposed to fill that space with more studying, but this kind of studying, this long-term commitment for a difficult exam, it’s not fun or exciting or entertaining. It’s grunt work.

I have been doing a lot of internal processing over the last month. That’s why I haven’t written in my blog. I needed to turn all of my energy inward and to be introspective. But now, with classes suddenly ripped away from me at a halt, my life is slowly falling apart again. I need the structure. I can keep it together. This is just a different kind of existence.

I could go to the gym, but truthfully, I’ve never enjoyed going, and I still don’t. It’s mundane trudgery. I would much rather be outside and go for a walk, but I’m afraid of the outside if I’m alone. I don’t like the idea of so many cars driving by on the busy streets around my residence.

What to do then with my time? Get a part time job? Start volunteering? Take another class? There could be so many distractions, but no, I have to study for the GRE. I want to make it into grad school, don’t I?

How do people do it? How do people decide to become therapists? How do they make it through the years of studying and training? All of that preparatory work to then discover, you don’t know anything, and your work has to be invented anew each time a client walks into your door, because every individual is unique and has special needs for accommodation.

My dream is to become a therapist, to become that person who helps people make changes in their lives, who helps a person become stronger, better, more self-assured. To spread positivity and grace and love in the world. To give a piece of myself away to a greater cause.

Right now I would rather just sleep. But that end-goal, which isn’t an end, but a beginning, is what keeps me going. If I can only slowly inch toward that unreachable height of being. The academic discipline that it takes to get there. I have it in me.

Back to the loneliness. Having sufficiently distracted my mind for several paragraphs I am feeling less empty. Despite the fact that I have a roommate I feel alone. We are born into this world alone and we die alone. But I am alone now too! I suspect it would be the same story were I to be in an intimate relationship. It’s just where I am in life right now. Trying to find my equilibrium, my place on this earth.

Existential thoughts come and go, like floating clouds amidst the turbulent waters of my mind. What is my purpose here in this world? How can I help people? How do I help myself? What is the point of going to work every day, every week, every month, as the years pass by. Is it a worthy cause? Is it a means to an end, or a new beginning? Will I ever realize my dreams? I want to have enough financial means to be able to take care of my mom when she is elderly. She deserves that much at least.

I am slowly adding meaning and purpose to my life, but it is a very slow process. I actually have to have patience. I could drown my thoughts out by watching television every night, but luckily I don’t own a TV and I can focus on activities that build me from within. I have to find activities to do.

I feel like crawling into bed right now and closing my eyes and pretending to be asleep, not a part of the world. In a sense, that is giving up. Every minute that I stay awake I am somehow engaging with the world, with myself, building my purpose, my esteem, my thinking skills. I need to not sleep my days away, yet that is precisely what I do every darn weekend. I cannot function. I cannot bring myself to do things in the light of the day. When I’m not obligated to be somewhere by work or school, I shut down, disintegrate into the cold earth beneath my feet, recede into the shadows of my dark sense of being.

Help me! Can’t someone just help me?? I could go to an anonymous chat room and try to connect with strangers for a while. It’s not the most productive use of my time but I’m reduced to that at times. I just want to connect. I want to be heard. I want to know that I matter and that I am important enough to be suffering through my daily struggle of life. Don’t we all feel this way?

The local Liquor Mart sounds pretty attractive right now.

Letter to my Therapist

To my therapist,

I want to tell you about my weekend. I logged in to my computer to write to you so I could write fluidly rather than the small slow typing on a cell phone. Friday night I went out for a couple hours. I think I told you that already. As of this week, piano is back in my life. It’s about time. I’m practising my senior piano recital piece. I’m amazed I still have the music score that my mum originally bought for me when I was 16. I have a whole bookshelf full of piano music I’ve collected over the years, and I will never need to buy new music because I’ll never get to playing everything that’s in my shelf. I used to photocopy music in the library when I was in college and I was so proud of my collection, even though I wasn’t playing it. I’m glad I didn’t get rid of it like I got rid of so many other books to Goodwill when I moved.
My mom bought for me and sent to me a book that is both in Italian and in English. I started reading it tonight. It’s sort of an autobiography. Reading the Italian is like reading music, and when I don’t understand a word, all I have to do is to look over to the other side where it’s translated into English. It makes me want to move to Italy and to somehow find work there. My mom would miss me if I chose to live in a different country. But I would love to live in Europe again! Germany or Italy would be my choices to go back to. It’s just that it’s hard to find jobs there.
I am starting to find more pleasure in life. Although, I did not have a good Saturday. I went to bed at 2 AM and then finally got out of bed at 5 PM. I was supposed to have coffee with a friend that afternoon but totally did not. Sunday, today, I woke up at 1:20 and made it out to coffee with a new friend. She is in my counseling class. We only spent an hour and a half with each other but we connect and we could have continued talking for a long time. I had a nice evening after that. I finished reading my class text book, then read another book for pleasure, then played piano, all before my roommate got home, then I washed dishes and read some more, of the Italian book this time, and had a shower. Now I am writing to you. Reading books is opening up my whole world. Taking these two classes taught me the pleasure of learning again, and I’m really enjoying enjoying things now. And my life is so much better. I have such a nice roommate, and I have a few new friends, through school and through my roommate. I was even able to get up out of bed today. I had a really nice weekend, overall, and I wish I had another weekend day, just so I could read my books and play piano and eat, and stay in pajamas all day.
Once classes are over I am going to start studying for the GRE this summer. I really want to take the test and pass it. I think it’s a good and achievable goal.
I’m really glad we have our next appointment scheduled. It comforts me knowing when I am going to see you next. Seeing you at the middle of my week is the high point of my week. Since I have dreaded weekends so much, it’s two days away from the weekend and two days until the weekend, so Wednesday is really my best day of the week.
I haven’t written in my blog, my online journal so much. I’ve been going through more internal processing, rather than external, writing-it-out processing. I’m really glad we got through the difficult part of our relationship when I broke our trust agreement. Those were some really difficult weeks to get through because I felt angry with you and rejected but now I am feeling good about our relationship again.
Thank you for helping me.