It’s not about Thanksgiving or safety pins.

It has been a wild time of confusion and bewilderment as we wrestle with what a Trump presidency means for this country. We are all grappling with conflicting ideas about slacktivism, patriotism, peaceful protest and inclusion. We watch as appointment after appointment seeks to dismantle the progress we thought we made.

I’m starting to feel less awful but I’ve been struggling. That struggle has been compounded by many conversations online that are filled with microaggressions. Where loads of white, cisgender people have discussed how they’re coping with sharing Thanksgiving with family members who may be Trump supporters.

It bothered me and so I posted this because I thought maybe it’s our unwillingness to have these conversations that has gotten us to this place. It’s at least a part of the problem.

Seventy comments later and I’m still bothered so I thought I’d clarify a few things.

My post was not about flipping tables. It’s not about alienation or division. It’s not about allyship for the sake of marginalized people. It’s not about the white guilt you may instantly feel when you see posts like mine. It’s not about sending fragile people into dangerous spaces. Ever. Anyone who knows me, knows that I would never advocate for that.

For years I’ve called the unwillingness to disrupt the dinner table a problem for child survivors of sexual trauma. It’s this bizarre behavior that keeps offending adults seated at the table without accountability or justice. And here I am addressing another kind of silence at the same table.

Because, it’s not about Thanksgiving or safety pins. For me, it’s about how some people *cough* (privilege) have options and other people *cough* (oppression) do not.

I’ll admit it. I’m jealous. I’m sorrowful. I’m grieving. I feel betrayed by allies and white feminism. I wish for an invisibility cloak so that I don’t have to feel so fearful and vulnerable in my brown skin. I feel heartened by safety pins while I’m equally distrustful of them because I don’t know that it means anything

In a perfect world, I’d wish for a few things from white, cisgender people and here they are:

Death to allyship. I don’t want an ally. I came to this realization as I was listening to Roxanne Gay as a guest on the podcast Politically Reactive. To paraphrase; racism, xenophobia, ableism, homophobia, and classism should be intolerable to all of us. It shouldn’t annoy you or hurt your feelings for someone else. My wish would be that you take it personally because it’s wrong and it doesn’t matter if it’s not directed at someone physically in the room.

Which brings me to my next point.

Just be real.One of the difficult things to hold emotionally has been the explicit proof that while I have insulated myself into a circle that includes liberal, progressive, feminist friends, the reality is that although they are active and vocal publicly, how they react privately, in the absence of a person marginalized or oppressed is underwhelming. So, maybe you can understand why I’m ready to host a wake for allyship. If you’re not for equality and civil rights in all spaces, than maybe you’re not that into it at all.

Think critically. I’ve noticed that the initial response to these challenging concepts is defensiveness. I know that some of you have tried. I’m not unclear about how this is difficult or how it will likely cause rifts in relationships.

I have a dear friend who has spent time reading evangelical Christian progressive blogs in preparation of having difficult conversations with their family. I have friends opting out of family dinner because that is what will bring home the point. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. 

The most important thing to remember here is that as a white, cisgender person, you have more privilege and more power amongst your own family than I or any other marginalized person ever will. We all have a responsibility to use our privilege to defeat oppression around us whenever we are able.

Do the actual work. Do the real, deep, interpersonal work that it takes to inspire hearts to change. Many have disconnected from the people they know with dangerous ideologies. Today I wrestle with the fact that we didn’t make as much progress as we thought. We just had more power. 

This one doesn’t just apply to white cisgender people. This applies to anyone who has given up on someone. Maybe we should reevaluate when and where we’ve decided that people are lost causes. I couldn’t continue to do the work that I do if I didn’t believe that people can change. 

Click here for tips from the Southern Poverty Law Center on responding to everyday bigotry.

People who are visible in their oppression will NEVER be able to opt out. Not ever. Not once. They will always have brown skin. They will always rock that wheelchair. They will always have that accent. They will always be in love with someone of the same gender. 

They will always go to the store, the hospital, the ballpark, the bank, their place of worship in their body.

This is the frustration. It is the absolute inability to opt out while others can take their safety pins off that hurts – especially when we know that you do take them off the moment shit gets real.

I’m asking you, as a friend. Wear whatever visible symbol of safety you want. Hang it on your door or in your office. Make it your profile pic and shout it from the fucking rooftop. Shout it from all the rooftops if you must. Get a safety pin, fuck Trump, stand with Standing Rock, tattoo on your chest.

But here’s the thing;

Integrity is who you are when nobody’s looking. – C.S. Lewis.

I’d like to thank every person who has been willing to have this conversation with me as I felt through all of my feelings and thoughts on this one. I have been unapologetically angry and inconsolably sorrowful lately. Which, you know, hasn’t been a walk in the park for anyone. 

Bullseye

It has been some time since I last used my blog space. Frankly, I’ve been exhausted. 

When I am not taking calls all day, I am going to meetings all day. When I am not going to meetings all day, I am responding to messages, texts and emails all day. When I am not doing all of that, I am attempting to be a good mother, wife, daughter, friend – person. 

When I am not doing all of that, I am wondering how I am going to stay healthy, creative, informed, connected in my soul on this schedule. 

I am not a unicorn. That is to say, my problems are not that unique. I don’t feel like my struggles are special on their own. But I have to consider the position I have placed myself in. Within all of those interactions, one truth continues to rise to the top. I am here as an outspoken survivor of child sexual abuse.

My job has become a constant reminder of that fact. With every phone call, every meeting, every message and every text – I am reminded of how I became this person. With every grant I write and every appeal I mail off, I am asking people to heal children that have sexual violence in common with me. Sometimes people say no or they say hurtful things without realizing it.

I do not regret where I am today. I do not regret the choices I have made to fight child sexual abuse and to heal what I can. But I do have to admit that when the going gets tough this shit is fucking hard.

Being the out survivor in the room often means that people will condescend to you about your obviously emotionally driven, hysterical response to the world. It means that they will decide that your opinion cannot be valid because you have emotions.

It sometimes means that I am triggered, emotional and hysterical. Which also means that sometimes I have to have conversations with my husband, my best friends, my therapist, my family and those I admire to talk myself out of being triggered so that I can respond with my full self. That full self includes emotional righteous indignation, practical self-evaluation and even (barf) objectivity.

It is true that sometimes fellow survivors, those within the movement to end sexual violence or allies/bystanders will elevate my voice. They will boost my signal. They will use me and my story to make the point they have been trying to express in many different ways.

There is beauty in that. However, the crown jewel often resembles a bullseye placed right over your heart. The same broken, healing, injured heart you seem to be placing in full view of humanity is now a target. That heart is discussed, analyzed, criticized and dissected without your permission and regardless of whether you happen to be in the room. And if you are me, you are often in the room asking a wise counsel to help you discern which way to go. Still. It is painful.

Even when the response is positive or validating, you are still vulnerable. Even when you get what you’ve asked others for, you are still vulnerable. You are still standing in a crowded room naked with all of your scars in full view. There are people who will talk to you about your story at the grocery store, in the playground, at your office and in the parking garage because they will know your face. They are kind and loving. They are supportive and they want you to know that you’ve moved them, helped them, shown them something about themselves.

And I am so, so grateful.

But I am now the person who often lies when I am on vacation when people ask me about what I do. I need people not to know me. I need them to think that I am a writer or a stay-at-home mom or that I work at a nonprofit that helps kids in the most nondescript way. I need to be able to breath as something other than an adult survivor of child sexual abuse.

I don’t know what I am saying to you because this is not a request for you to not see me. It is not a request that you don’t tell me the things you’d like to say. It’s not even a post about how I don’t like those things. I want you to boost my signal if it will help us all end sexual violence or bring someone to a space of healing.

I think I’m just saying that I am tired. I’m saying that this is a lonely place. I’m saying that even with all of the privileges and militant self-care I practice, this is still the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. There are not enough bubble baths, long walks, good plates of food to deny that I am still in a constant position of vulnerability. I have to be so gentle with myself while recognizing that I have work to do.

And I want you to know that I am an amazing gardener. I can fill a place with growing things. I can nurture a sunflower taller than me. I love spiders and their webs. LOVE THEM. I dry things and make magic in tea cups. I tell bumblebees that they are safe with me.

I sing. Not often enough but I have a pretty good voice. I love the water but I don’t love to swim. I just want to be near it. I want to hear it and dip my toe in it when I get too hot. I love the things that come from the water. Waves, sea glass, bulbous seaweed and the smell of wind that spends its time dancing across lakes to find me at the shore. It tells me that I am near enough.

I am the silliest mother with the lamest jokes. I am responsible for the laughter, whimsy and downright irresponsible behavior in our home. I encourage bravery, responsibility and accountability. My family thinks I can make you love your most hated food in my kitchen. 

This is a strange post filled with whiny words about the life I chose. I choose this. I will always choose this but damn. You guys, I am super tired.

And yes. I will accept cheese to accompany my whine. Thank you for offering.

Honestly,

Tashmica

You Know What You’re Doing.

You may not know this about me but, I have a regular offering. I set aside one hour a month for anyone who wants my advice on building a nonprofit from scratch, community building and heart work.

I’ve been so well loved and supported in my vision. This is my best way of paying it forward.

I offer up my best advice while harnessing the kind of knowledge that comes from talking with individuals on fire for serving their community.

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Over hot cups of coffee I’ve heard nonprofit dreamers utter the same phrase;

“I have no idea what I’m doing.”

It bothers me. Not because it’s insincere. I understand. I’ve said those words myself. I’ve said them under my breath, in meetings and I’m certain, I’ve gone on record as the woman who had no idea what she was doing but chose to move forward anyway.

I was wrong. I should never say that. If you have a vision and you believe you have no idea what you’re doing, you’re wrong too.

Let’s reframe that statement.

Here’s a real time example. I need to create an employee handbook because, guess what? We’re hiring!

My inclination is to say, I have no idea what I’m doing. I could use my self-deprecating humor or I could tell you the vulnerable truth.

I know what kind of culture I want to create. I want policies that are led by my organization’s mission, compassion and justice. I know how I want my employees to feel when they step inside my office – safe, respected and accountable to the expectations of the community invested in the healing of children.

I need help aligning my goals with the laws of the land and managing the risk involved with hiring employees.

Do you see the shift? You can hold fast to your vision while recognizing the help you need to succeed. Here’s how:

1. Get clear on what you want to build or create.
2. Define what you’re not qualified to accomplish.
3. Ask for help.

You don’t need to know everything. The cure to your fear of failure is vulnerability. Ask for help.

Hear me. You know what you’re doing. You can’t do it alone. Spoiler alert: No one accomplishes anything alone.

Give yourself credit for your vision. At worst, you gave thoughtful consideration to how you could make the lives of others better. That’s amazing!

Sincerely,

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Tashmica

PS – If you’re interested in meeting up, email me at Tashmica Torok at gmail .com or hit me up with a DM on Twitter @TashmicaTorok.

We Are All The Velociraptor Sometimes.

In this month’s Open Letter, I made the following claim;

When it comes to boundaries, people can be like velociraptors..jpg

It’s true.

Velociraptors do not respect boundaries. They actively avoid them and work skillfully to get around them. Even people with the best of intentions can step all over your boundaries. I also wrote about the many ways people can react to being asked to respect your boundaries. See: Temper Tantrum

 

Sometimes when someone says, “Please respect this boundary.”

I hear, “You hate me. You don’t want to be with me. You think I am terrible and awful and fugly.”

This seemed like a good time to bring back the word ‘fugly’.

It’s easy to recognize the velociraptors in others. It’s not so easy to understand why we start tapping electric fences for weakness when someone asks us for a little space.

*SIGH* Thank God for therapy, #amiright.

We are all the velociraptor sometimes. 

Love & Electric Fences,

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PS – Sign up for my Open Letters and get a FREE gift from yours truly. <3

 

 

Vacation is over.

giphy (2)And there will be sorrow across the lands. It is time to report to your office. Even if you LOVE your job, going from living on sugar cookies, wine and cheese while watching movies and playing with new toys can
be jarring.

Here are 5 things you can do right now to make this week less awful:

Make a plan. Get your planner out and review what’s coming around the bend. Take out your highlighter and block off time for lunch, breaks and the 2 times a day you’re committed to checking your email. Yes, twice. That’s all you need.

Eat well. Pack your lunch. Pack several lunches. Put snacks together for the week. No one on the planet functions well hungry. Why spend your day feeling like a cranky toddler with a case of the hangry? Plan to eat. Your body will thank you. Your coworkers will too.

Get some rest. Speaking of cranky, go to bed at a decent hour. It’s really over and staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning won’t bring your vacation back. It will just make you tired and miserable for your first day back to professional reality. Get yourself comfy and sleep like it’s your part-time gig.

Pace yourself. If you happen to be an overachiever (like me), the starting line can feel super sexy. It’s all shiny and new. The race is just riddled with endless possibilities. You can jump tall buildings in one leap or whatever. No. You can’t. You can only jump normal. You still only have 24 hours in a day and only 8 of them are for work. This is a relay not a sprint. Take it easy Jesse Owens.

Bring the magic. I’m not talking about casting spells here. I’m talking about bringing an amulet to the table. I love to take reminders of my amazing holiday with me when I’m about to step back into the hustle of
my day job. I love my Glacier National Park coffee mug. It reminds me of Lake McDonald and the mountains I woke up to behind it. Grab a little magic to take with you.

You are going to be awesome. And 10384660_10154555950065626_4027924760770639560_nremember, there’s always the weekend.

Love,

 

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PS – For more tips on #militantselfcare head on over to the Facebook group and click JOIN.

 

Thank You Note

Dear ones,

Thank you for reading my stories, thoughts and feelings. Your readership has given me the gift of confidence in my words. Your comments, likes and shares encouraged me to keep telling stories. This blog was a stepping stone in discovering the treasure that is my written words. Thank you.

My life has evolved.

You’ve seen the changes. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you’ve seen my children grow. You’ve watched my relationships thrive, struggle, end or become more weatherproof. You’ve seen me advocate freely and build a nonprofit that is a reflection of what I would have wanted for myself as a child.

You’ve seen my snapshots.

It’s time for this blog to make a transitional move. It is time to reserve my words for publishing. There’s only so much time in a writer’s day and I’m already managing an organization that has quickly become bigger than me. I need to focus on those things that will serve my dreams for the future.

My intentions for the future are as follows;

You can expect that I will be writing and that I will be published online. You can expect that I will be published in print too. I will be working on my memoir and a few secret side projects. Outside of family and friends, you will always be the first to know when and where you can read my work. You’ll be able to find short reflections and rejections* here too. Topics will revolve around nonprofit, survivorship, #militantselfcare and every now and again, my family.

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You may also be invited to attend workshops that I create based on lessons I learn along the way.

Which reminds me. There’s still time to sign up for my Militant Self-Care Workshop on December 2, 2015.

I’m getting super professional in my old age.

Sincerely,

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*rejections = things I tried to publish elsewhere but were rejected because some people are just intent on discovering me after I am dead and gone. 

Not quite right.

I arrived wearing yoga pants covered in dog hair and my slippers. The yoga studio is 2 minutes from my house and I was 2 minutes late. I was thirsty and rushed as I unclasped my watch, dropped it into my purse and headed in to select a mat. I grabbed a pink one, took a step forward and stopped. Definitely not pink today. Where’s that black yoga mat?

Yes. Black like my soul.

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I’ve been having trouble getting my feet underneath me since Soulfire 2016. I’ve felt sluggish, disconnected and turned inward. Invitations are lost on me. Pajamas are all I want on my body and my bed is the only place I want to be.

I’m not depressed, I’m emptied out. My charge is depleted. I’m exhausted.

I’ve been trying to do the bare minimum with the hope that my come back is on its way.

Do you hear the upbeat music kicking in? Here it comes! It’s almost…Nope. I’m going back to bed.

I’m laying on my deeply dramatic emo black yoga mat thinking;

I’m just not feeling okay. I’m just not okay with how I’m feeling. I’m not okay with working right now. I’m not feeling quite right. Why can’t I get my mojo back? I’m not feeling okay enough to do much these days.

My thoughts distilled: I am not okay.

I usually take a week off after big time events but this week went awry. I made some commitments that I shouldn’t have and then one of my children had to stay home from school sick. A come back is not in the cards for this week.

Things are not quite where they should be in my soul.

I’m invoking a Do Over for next week that will include auto responses, critical tasks only and loads of leisure time with the people I love the best.

I’m not okay right now but I will be.image

Sincerely,

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PS – This is helping.