Several conversations have been swirling through my social media feed this weekend. One involves the state of women in ministry (some people are for it, some people against it, and some wonder why this is still an issue today). Several other conversations involve victim blaming in regard to how women dress when raped tied in with that same verbiage relating to children who are molested ("If she didn't dress like a slut, she wouldn't have this happen to her.")
I briefly engaged in the first one, engaged heavily in the third one, and dabbled in the second. The first one involved a Twitter feed ( #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear ), and the replies there were often poignant, engaging, and painful. The third involved me opening up about my own abuse, and how that affected me.
As always, these conversations make me raw. Really raw. I try to balance between understanding those who do not "get" what I'm saying, and being real, but I often end up feeling like I continue to speak to winds that blow past me on their way to other more important things.
And, I have been through enough counseling to know that just because I am past some of these wounds, I am always going to have to measure my own reactions and be mindful of where I am emotionally.
But there are days, like today, when I flail. Where I feel like everything I have processed and worked through and talked over are nothing but repeating spirals. Where counseling and "working stages/steps" becomes nothing but noise. Where all I can do is sit and cry.
Cry because I feel ineffective and weak. Because I feel unheard. Because I feel valueless, broken, and irrelevant.
Today, I did something I know I shouldn't have. I went to a bakery and got non gluten free doughnuts and ate them.
I cried doing so.
Then I confessed to a friend what I had done.
She asked me to not self harm. I acknowledge that eating gluten is akin to cutting for someone like me. But, as I told her, "I can't control how others hurt me, but I can control how I hurt myself." And, yes, I do realize how messed up that is.
Eating gluten is my own act of rage.
I started feeling the results pretty quickly. Along with the nausea and need to vomit came the swirls of regret and sorrow and helplessness.
The irony is that I felt helpless so I did something that felt powerful but put me in an even more helpless situation.
This is what a woman living in rape culture does when she feels she has no place to turn.
No excuse, mind you.
But it is the same as putting a razor to my skin. No amount of prayer can change that driving need to control something when the reminders are so fierce that I have no control.
Because I am not beautiful enough, but something made someone want to take something I didn't offer. Because I am not strong like a man, even though I've been told by others I'm so strong. Because I was too sheltered in some ways, and not sheltered enough in others. Because, as one woman who transitioned to a man put it, "When I became a man, I was no longer afraid," and I am deeply aware that I am not a man.
Not surprisingly, during all of this, my mind turns to fragrance. In my upbringing, there were sermons on how brokenness is a sweet perfume to God, how ingredients used for the temple oil included being crushed. Stories of how Christ was broken for us (broken and spilled out, like perfume) are paralleled with how we will be broken and spilled. It is pain. It is blessing. It is even fetishized.
There are times I do wonder what sorrow smells like to others.
I know the first time I was almost kidnapped, fear smelled like candy, wet cement, and copper.
The second time, I remember smelling the leather of my shoes, the flowers blooming in the hedge I ran past. The smell of the house I was welcomed in to. Safety.
When I was molested by my step father, I smelled dust and sweat. Cotton sheets. Meat in the oven. Onions. The faint trace of something rotting. Fecal matter. Sometimes, when I dream and hear a child crying, I smell roaches.
There are more smells. More memories.
Perhaps this is why I surround myself with too much perfume. I cannot control the smells that happened to me, but I can control what is around me right now. If I want to smell jasmine, I can. If I want to remember safety, I close my eyes and smell grass, the scent of raspberry bushes. Blueberries warm on the tongue and how that tart sweetness blooms in the sinuses when you breathe in and out while chewing.
Today, I have no answers. I am exhausted from being up a lot of the night and staring at the dark ceiling. Again feeling like I am a foreigner trying to reach a culture and a people who simple cannot understand me. I do know that some care, and some try to translate, but we still speak very different languages.
I know there are those who deny that rape culture exists, and that is within a secular setting. For someone like me who was raised in the church, with the idea of women being in submission, how our sexuality is equated to purity, how we become damaged so easily, and as someone who watched multiple men in authority abuse their positions and children and women around them, I acknowledge an issue much deeper than rape culture that shares similar roots.
But, as the saying goes, there are none so blind as those who refuse to see. I know many ministers who insist there is no problem. Men who claim to love women in their lives, but see abuse as Latin: it's out there, others use it, but it doesn't affect them in their day to day.
Where do I go from here? I will do the same thing I do every day, Pinky (after I throw up and regret the terrible decision to add gluten to my intestines). I will go forward one more step. Put on some perfume (perhaps one of my "comfort" standbys), and pray that some day women won't have to fear being told we are "beating up" men by using our voice to be too honest, one more time.