Triggered

Triggered.

You laugh at the word and point out how overused it is these days.

You sit in your leather chairs, backs comfortably reclined as you swivel behind the glossy desk proclaiming your entitlement.

It is so easy for you to roll your eyes and then apologize for your reaction. Your genitalia allows you to retract at will. It hangs between your legs, launching you onto the high horse you barely even know you’re riding.

Yes, yes, she was compelling. Attractive too. Surprisingly believable.

You marvel at this circus and flare your nostrils at the injustice and casually wonder how all the other women are taking this.

You ask them politely, giving them the floor as though they suddenly matter and you are very cautious not to assume you understand, even as your head tilts gently to the side and nods in misplaced solidarity.

You don’t even know what we’re talking about.

Some of you try. There is sincerity in your attempt to open eyes conditioned to see only half the world. The best of you lower your voices and open your ears, acknowledging this moment as the start of change, even as you are reminded that it is deja vu all over again.

Over and over and over again.

Triggered.

One in 5 stare at their screens and watch their personal hell parade in front of their eyes in varying degrees of burning shame. Four in 5 have had their eyes peeled open since they were taught to beware, beware, the beast is always out to get you; your virtue protects you from becoming another statistic. One in 3 tasted it. Two in 3 witnessed it.

Triggered.

You sit with your knees spread, airing out the sword you hold above our heads while our thighs squeeze together and our bodies clench in collective resistance.

Triggered.

We hashtag our anger and air your dirty laundry because we are done.

Triggered.

We march and we stand tall and we proclaim our strength and you pretend to see us.

Triggered.

You laugh at the word and point out how overused it is these days.

Triggered.

Your laugh is uncomfortable because you see us rising up as a solid wall of broken women triggered by memories of generations of your betrayal. The trigger she pulled when she stood before the world and yanked the comfortable rug from under your feet, revealing mountains of naked truths hiding beneath it cleared your vision long enough for you to glimpse the ugliness of your desire.

And you are triggered.

Originally published on The Times of Israel.

Someone Called the Rabbi on Me…

I debated writing this post…I thought that maybe I shouldn’t stir any trouble…that if I did say something, I would only be hurting myself more.

But I have to write how I feel and I have to put it out there where it will be seen. This is who I am; this is how I can keep going through all the twists and turns of my life.

So here it is…here is how I felt when I found out that the Rabbi of the community I am currently living in was called about me and my family…how we had left Orthodoxy…and the subsequent tangible murmurings and distance we’ve felt.

Making this decision was agonizing for me and my husband, and extremely challenging with children old enough to understand the process. We never really felt a deep connection with this community, but we had built friendships within it and had a surface-level kinship with most of the members as coreligionists.

Now that we have even less in common with so many of the people in our small community, the emotional baggage of our childhoods has resurfaced along with the need to fit in or blend in so that we can avoid the pain of living on the outside. We’ve worked on that, and we have embraced our decisions and our truths and no longer feel shame or fear about who we are.

I write this for that person hiding in the pack, afraid of someone finding something out and having the shame of the protective blanket of lies wrapped around them ripped away in unwanted exposure.

You may be feeling alone right now, but feeling alone with a truth you can live with is far better than feeling alone with a truth you cannot face.

I don’t know how old I was when someone told me telling the truth was shameful and should be avoided at all costs.

I did not want the shame I already felt to be seen by anyone else so I made lying my truth.

When I was 12 years old, someone called my mother to tell her that somewhere along the way, I had not learned to read. My skin burned red and no one wrapped me up in comfort and told me I did not have to lie.

When I was 13 years old, someone found a packet of my lying truths I wrote to test the waters of friendship and trust and returned them to sender. My parents read my spun tales and believed me when I said I had lied but the shame washed over me like he had said it would so I dug the truth deeper under my skin.

When I was 15 years old, someone thought I had disappeared and searched all over for me, finding me walking back to safety with a boy who had bought me pizza and listened to my hopes and aspirations without judgment. I was dragged back to the security of taped mouths and bound bodies and saw shame in my parents’ eyes. It felt like daggers stabbing a dead corpse and I knew that my heart had been stolen.  

When I was 16 years old, someone called my father to tell him about something I had done in a dark garage at the end of a long driveway where my heart was pounding and fear was forcing my eyes shut and my body to learn the fine art of floating into the trees outside. We didn’t speak about it because I no longer existed.

When I was 17 years old, someone called someone every time I came up for air.

When I was 20 years old, I found something deep within that felt like a truth and everyone I loved was able to breathe again because they could bear the truth I wore.

When I was 30 years old, I could no longer let that truth that had been a lie drain my soul. I decided I was going to learn to love that little girl who was so afraid of shame.

When I was 32 years old, I found that I had absorbed all shame and could finally live a truth that was mine.

Then someone called the Rabbi on me…

And now I am 10 years old again and I am nodding my head and promising that I will never tell.

Emergence

“So”, he says, leaning back into his chair. “Tell me what’s on your mind.”

I inhale and slowly drift up to the ceiling.

I see my body sitting across from him. My fingers play with the magnetic toys he keeps on his desk.

My lips part and a story spews from them.

A story about a man…a stranger…and a gun…and a rape…and how the hero came…how the hero stood up for me…fought for me…made me believe in myself again…because I do now…and I am definitely not a victim…but I’m not sure what I’m feeling…so maybe it’s time to start talking…to start telling stories…to figure me out.

He frowns and I can see, from up here, that he knows that I’m lying.

I try to float down against myself and connect with my body before it betrays me again…but I don’t understand gravity anymore than I can understand how I am hovering on the ceiling, watching myself perform.

He says something I don’t really hear…because my ears are directly connected to my heart…and had he said any of the words my heart longed for, I know I’d come crashing down and smash my broken body into a million pieces more.

But I’m still up here…and I remain here as I trudge out of his office and through a few more days of foggy consciousness, until I remember that I told him about the monster.

Only…I called him a hero and I made him into a small detail of an elaborate tale I knew shouldn’t have been taken at face value.

So now I’m falling…down through my body and even further into a pit of slime and mold and I lose myself somewhere in the filth, until I see something I recognize and resurface, gasping as the burn pours down my throat and the bottle empties into my lungs where I am finally able to exhale.

There is nowhere left to fall.

I sit again.

I don’t think there is a point.

If I can’t tell my story I will die.

But I can’t tell the story because I’m on the ceiling again and this time it feels like my body is pinned to the fluorescent bulbs and the light is pouring through me as I slowly turn invisible.

But my heart can still hear.

My heart hears the tale spun again…the lies and deceptions…the words that mean nothing and everything…and I am disappointed in the girl sitting with those nice people and wonder if she knows that we will die very soon…that she will have to find a way to bury me.

But then my heart skips a beat because the story is over and there is no sound.

I need to know what is happening.

I need to rip myself from the cold concrete so I push and I push and I push until I am falling again, but this time, I am caught by the feeling of a hand…gently squeezing another hand that should be mine but has not yet connected with my displaced heart and soul…and my heart skips another beat and lands at the feet of a woman who knew not to hear the words my mouth was forming and instead…somehow saw me floating in the air and made me visible.

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Photo by Naftali Goldstein, March 2016

Truths

Today I saw myself differently.

I saw how others see me…how others misunderstand me…how others judge me…

And I understood why.

Not because I am secure…confident…in who I am…or what I believe…

But because I am honest…about who I am…and what I believe…

And I refuse to pretend.

I saw how it can hurt…to feel like you have to try to be…something else…and how I can come along…and tell you to be you…and you can’t…for thousands of reasons I will never understand…but for thousands of reasons that are valid and true for you…and how you might resent me…maybe even hate me…because I am doing something…you think you want to do…or you think I believe you must do.

But…I can’t pretend…and I have thousands of reasons why I can’t…and those thousands of reasons are valid and true…for me.

So take your reasons…and your truths…and live them…to the best of your ability…and let me take my reasons…and my truths…and do what I need to do for me.

But please know…that even though I believe something…strongly…openly…loudly…I do not judge your beliefs…no matter how hard it is…for me to hear them.