Disrupting Your Own Negative Inner Dialogue

Well, that’s what you get?

While gently leaning into a yoga pose and reflecting on my feelings, this is what I heard myself say. I was shocked at the lack of compassion in that voice. A voice that found its origin somewhere inside of myself.

It made me angry. Who even says that? Oh, right. Me.

In the hours leading up to the yoga class, my heart had been aching and I felt like I was going to cry. Two separate events had come careening towards me threatening two different kinds of catastrophe. Although I had managed to fix the problems, I was emotionally spent. Despite my fears of inconsolably crying on a yoga mat in a room full of people, I decided to take all of my feels to a yoga class.

#myfeelsI’m so glad I did. In the process of calling myself on my own bullshit, I learned a few things I thought you could benefit from too.

3 steps to disrupting your own negative inner dialogue.

Quiet your surroundings. Hear yourself speak. Had I not found some quiet time, I may not have ever heard the voice in my head telling me that I deserve to be in pain for choosing to do the work I do. I needed to be on my mat and in my breath to hear that super awful message loud and clear.

Some tips: Go on walks without your iPod. Turn off the radio in your car. Fold laundry without Netflix. Get on your mat and practice or meditate. Journal before bed.

Listen to yourself. What you say to yourself is important. That very simple phrase had the power to prevent me from asking for help or seeking compassion from those around me. If I’m constantly telling myself that I deserve to suffer, than I will suffer. The end.

Tips: When you’re approaching heartaches, obstacles, emotions, what are you saying to yourself? Are you calling yourself nasty names or telling yourself you’re unworthy? Are you saving your compassion for everyone else? Listen for patterns or reoccurring themes.

Challenge yourself. When I heard that phrase float through my mind, I nearly bolted out of my yoga pose. It was mean and unhelpful. Once I challenged it, I found it completely untrue and can now dismiss the thought if it ever comes around again.

Tips: When you hear yourself being negative, challenge the statements that you throw at yourself. Respond with the opposite sentiments. Where there is a lack of compassion, give yourself some loving kindness.

That phrase has now evolved into this one:

“With my heart work comes personal transformation but only when I am brave enough to inspect the wound.”

What will your negative inner dialogue transform into once you challenge it?10421337_10152916021378588_1898813583640583186_n

Sincerely,

What can the world count on you for?

That’s what my #truthbomb asked me.

Actually, it was phrased like this.
count on

I held the question written in pretty handwriting on it’s little white card in my hand. I leaned back into my chair and thought about what the world could count on me for.

I was at a point in my life where I was overwhelmed with the work to be done in the world. That point in my life seems to have encompassed much of my twenties and all of my thirties. Darfur, orphans, refugees, cancer and sexual trauma in addition to what is now sitting on the world’s agenda. Honestly, the locations of the horrors, the oppression and the devastation just changes. It doesn’t end.

I am not being a martyr here. I’m hoping many of you can relate. If you participate in social media, you probably feel like you know too much. The images and videos flashing on your screen are disturbing but you feel some deep responsibility to bear witness. In this current moment I was struggling with what my role could or should be within other social justice movements that I support but have no active or vocal role.

What can we count on you for?

This question. Have you ever seen a video of a mobile of the solar system when it reaches a point when all of the planets align? That’s what this question began to do for me. As I kept repeating the words to myself, I found that I had made promises to the world and in order to keep them, I would have to limit my focus.

For one, I promised that I would raise three good people when I gave birth to three healthy beings. I have made promises about the care of children I serve through my foundation. I have promised a certain kind of friendship to those I am lucky enough to call friends. I have promised to be a good sister, daughter, niece and granddaughter. I have promised to be a good neighbor.

And oh, the promises I’ve made about the kind of person I want to be!

I have made a lot of promises. The world counts on me for a lot and I happily oblige. This is not grunt work for me. This is heart work. It makes me sing – even in the trenches with shit up to my ankles. I’m singing whether the songs be of sorrow or, as I called it to a friend earlier today, my own version of panic at the disco.

Deciding what the world could count on me for made it much easier for me to discern what I cannot be involved with at this time. In this season of my life, the world cannot count on me to volunteer for other nonprofits (unless it’s behind the scenes). The world will have to do without my leadership in other causes because I have chosen my soapbox and my torch to bear. The world cannot count on me to bake for the bake sale or always be the parent volunteer. I don’t bake and I am a working mother. This makes me so grateful for the parents who bake and who are there when I cannot be.

The world can count on them for that.

When you decide what the world can count on you for, you can allow others the opportunity to step it up. If you are not there to do it, someone will either get it done or decide it’s just not important enough to be a priority. That is the magic of allowing others the opportunity to rise to the occasion.

I believe that my yes must carry the same weight as my no. If I over commit, my family, team and friendships suffer. They have to tow the line, go the extra mile, do without and find ways to make the ends of my time meet their needs. It’s not fair and that expectation is not a declaration of my love for the personal relationships in my life as much as it is a side effect of my ambition.

Ambition with a dose of disregard is like a logging company in the Amazon. It will only lead to destruction.

Saying yes. The kind of yes you almost yell. Saying the kind of yes that makes you sit up late at night dreaming, get up early for meetings and show up with a mind open to learning the ropes – even if it means taking two steps backwards – is well worth saying no as many times as you need to.

When you decide what the world can count on you for and you don’t stray, you will shine. Because truly, the world has been waiting for you to bring it the way only you can.

Meryl that's all
This is not me but I wish it was.

So, friend. What can we count on you for?

Shinin’,

Tashmica's signature

PS – The question of when and how to say no has come up in the #militantselfcare Facebook group. Join the conversation here.

Happy to help!

I want my children to grow up to live a life that fills their spirit with bliss. I want them to walk with purpose and offer compassion in their own unique way. I want them to wake up every morning with a fire in their belly for social justice.

I’m not going to lie to you. I want my children to be activists.

You wanna be a lawyer? Oooh, how about immigration law or The Innocence Project.

You wanna be a doctor? I hear there are kids with cleft palates who could use someone like you. Have you ever heard of Patch Adams?

You wanna be a fireman? Do it. Saving lives, protecting families is an honorable gig. Be safe. Bring me stories.

This probably doesn’t surprise you. It shouldn’t. Conversations in our home revolve around the celebration of their interests and guidance towards how they might use their day job to serve others.

I will admit that I’ve also told them to make it so mommy doesn’t have to work. I recognize that these are conflicting instructions but I figure either way, I CAN’T LOSE!

Real talk. Nobody saving the world is rolling in bank but they are rolling deep in the good.

My kids watch me. As they all do. They 11136651_10152893200734022_8788192720637140555_ncome to the events, they sit through the meetings, they help their momma empty the car after the latest event. They know my elation and exhaustion. They know my successes and my frustrations. They get to witness it all.

Should make for a great book someday.

Lord, help me.

I often worry that it’s all too much. That I do too much. I worry, like mothers do.

And then, I get an email like this:

image

Have any brochures coming up that I can help with? If so, let me know.

He ends his email in the same way I do.

Happy to help!

It’s never too early to learn grassroots organizing. #amiright

As a side note: that’s my best friend’s face making a cameo appearance. Hey girl, hey!

So, my son is sitting on the Teen Yoga Committee for my foundation. He is the brother of the founder of the Dog Olympics. I’m thinking, he will be learning some communications this summer. And the best part?

It’s all because he’s happy to help.

My children will be who they are meant to be. I enjoy watching them change, grow and become more and more independent of me. Different than each other and bringing their own brand of amazing into my life and the lives of others. It is a remarkable privilege to give my children the room they need to be who they are and then watch the magic happen.

Wouldn’t you agree?

May the life I give my sons now, lead them towards their own bliss. Amen.

Love,

signature1

Jarring

It’s the only way I can describe it.

Seeing, hearing…feeling my own story can sometimes be jarring.

I had the opportunity to share my story in a documentary called Every Two Minutes. It was produced by a talented team of students at Michigan State University who invited survivors to share their experiences. The film looks at advocacy services in the Lansing, East Lansing area.

It also holds pieces and parts of many survivor stories.

Including mine. 

Tashmica Torok / Survivor Interview / Every Two Minutes from Every Two Minutes on Vimeo.

Earlier this week, it was posted on their Facebook page and I watched my interview uncut for the first time. 

I know my story. Obviously.

I lived it.

And still, sometimes when I hear it out loud, it is jarring.

The train goes off the track. The cheese slips off the cracker. 

Es no bueno. #forrealz

On the night of the first test screening, I remember having this moment in the dark where I realized that it’s gone now. My story is out of my hands. It can be shared, ignored, judged, posted, reposted or honored. 

I have very little control over it anymore.

I looked around the theater and thought to myself, ‘They all know. These strangers know.’

Weird.

It just feels weird. 

The things I share are personal to me. They are the things I have suffered, learned, tried, dreamed and sometimes hidden. There I am. Just there in a studio with bright lights cast on me as I unfold it and line it up for you in the best way I know how.

I feel vulnerable and exposed. 

Somehow, even after sharing it a hundred times, hearing it told back to me in my own words is disconcerting. It’s an awful story.

I share it here again because even though it’s uncomfortable, I believe that if I stand firm in the conviction that my story belongs in this world, that other survivors will too.

They may never share the way I do but they may share in the moments that count the most: when all it takes to help someone begin to heal is to say, “I know. It happened to me too. Here’s what helped me.”

 

Soul to soul. Survivor to survivor.

Sincerely,

Tashmica

 

 

 

 

 

Believe me. I know.

Today I woke up to heartbreak.

Clear and strong, like a window cracked into giant glass slivers.

Another survivor, bearing the burden of proof.

A family chanting and then berating. Pushing for a more palatable story and when not rewarded with what they wanted, they turned to petty attacks and cutting words.

I won’t repeat them here. It’s not my story to tell.

I did have advice though.

Every time I tell my story, there are consequences for the people in my family.

I fear my mother will never release the guilt she feels about her inability to see what was hidden so expertly.

My brother mourned a father I only know in pieces and parts that don’t reconcile themselves to one another.

My father’s family experiences a range of emotions and reactions that I will never understand.

It is my story.

10306084_353549801436778_441417075287613471_n

It is my truth but sharing it hurts. It hurts others and sometimes – damn it – it hurts myself.

Even though I wish it didn’t any more.

However, I did not conjure up this pain. I did not bring this upon us all like some plague.

My father did this.

He made choices that turned his only daughter into his victim.

He ruined his own reputation and sullied his own good name.

I am only telling the truth.

It’s not an easy truth but my story belongs and I have rarely been made to feel otherwise.

Your story belongs too.

This morning, I recognized a truth being stifled. I saw a true story being shoved out into the open where it was insulted and scolded in an effort to change the truth.

It was heartbreaking.

And it will happen again. It’s probably happening right now in some corner of the world and just down the street.

I’d like to say I don’t understand why families of victims behave this way but I do.

Deeply, in my heart, I also wish that my father had lived up to his good reputation. I wish it were as simple as the wrong outfit, the wrong place, too many cocktails, flirty behavior or unclear boundaries.

If only.

I recognize, deep in my heart that when you see that no one is safe, you start to realize that it could happen to you and you panic.

Stop it.

Those excuses only take the focus off of the only person in the situation who deserves to be shamed, punished and seeking repentance – the perpetrator.

If someone has enough faith in you to share the burden of their most terrible story, please, please believe them. Please.

Give faith in return for faith.

If you fail a loved one in this manner, it will have dire, long-lasting and sometimes irrevocable consequences for you both.

Believe me. I know.wpid-img_20140502_073144.jpg

True story.

Love,

Tashmica

PS – I had to add this sassy picture to drive home the point. Ya dig?

I made it up.

When I was in 5th grade a new family moved into the rental house next door. Out of the four children who lived there, two were the exact age as my brother and I.

We were delighted.

Well, I was delighted because I was a born extrovert who loved making new friends. I’m probably projecting those feelings onto my brother. Nonetheless, we played together during the last summer before ‘playing together’ became ‘hanging out’ in 6th grade.

In their backyard, we were invited into an old, dilapidated greenhouse. The wooden structure was rotting from disuse and weeds grew up between the stepping stones. Some of the heavy windows were leaning in on themselves or littered on the ground.

The potential was enormous.

The next day we brought our offerings together. Leftover paint, discarded dishes, pillows and a few books all piled together to improve the livability of our new digs. We repainted the wood – complete with our own handprints – and the loose windows were pressed back into place. We even hung up some sheets like curtains.

Once we were done, we rested comfortably in the space we created from the best of what we could find to share with each other.

This weekend I hosted the first orientation and advocacy training workshop for volunteers of The Firecracker Foundation. We announced it’s existence about a month ago and the response surprised me. Out of 25 spots available, 21 people registered and 17 were able to participate.

image

That’s a lot more people than I expected.

They were each required to obtain a DHS Clearance as well as proof that they were not listed on either state or federal sex offender registries. They had to register for the training and give up 4 hours of their day on a Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend. The commitment was big.

They jumped through all of the hoops with a smile on their face and joy in their hearts. Again. I may be projecting.

Come Saturday morning, they were there and ready.

image

I was there and nervous.

I don’t know if you are aware but I have never done any of this before. I’m basically making this up as I go along. However, let me also reassure you that I am not flying by the seat of my pants. I’m humbly asking questions, seeking advice and asking for a lot of help.

There’s a little flight too. I dream and plan and hope for what this foundation can be in spare moments, notes, emails and phone calls to friends. I have high hopes.

I am then taking all of the best I can gather, piling it up and making it an offering to the community. I am not alone in my efforts.

Together we are learning how to protect children, how to serve their families and how to take care of ourselves through the process. As a team we are gathering the best of what we have to offer and laying it at the feet of a community of children who have been injured. We are helping them renovate and rehang the windows.

In my mind, that greenhouse is being fervently repaired and tiny buds are starting to sprout.

As most things do, it will flourish with love.image

Spring is certain.

Tashmica

 

 

Open & Emptied Out

Today I draw my knees into my chest and protect my heart.

I recognize that my normal posture is one of an open heart. I stretch my arms behind me and lift my chest, sharing that space with the world. A Care Bear stare, if you will.

Today, my heart needs to be encased and covered.

The weight it has been bearing through the creation of The Firecracker Calendar Project was great and beautiful. I have the names of survivors written on my heart like tattoos. I can see the letters scribbled along the walls beating my blood.

Their stories were heartbreaking and their bravery overwhelmingly courageous.

My breath was stolen, tears came often and I found it difficult to speak.

I am making this sound so terrible. It was not. It was truth cracking open and spinning through the rooms we shared. It was acceptance of the horrific and a moving into the brilliant.

I am probably not making any sense.

All I know is that although in reality the Creole Gallery was a perfectly appropriate space for our gallery showing, it was not large enough for the emotions in the room.

There wasn’t room enough for Chelsea’s spoken word piece. There wasn’t room enough for the moment a survivor’s foster parent thanked me for what I had done.

I replied, “Thank you for loving her.”

He said, “Loving her was easy. What you did for her was hard.”

Is there a room big enough for those words?

There wasn’t space enough for the youngest survivor in the room to smile under the crook of my arm and to be so loved by the other participants helping her down her own path towards healing.

The ceiling should have broken open and the walls should have fallen down to mirror all of the growth that was inspired by the experience.

Even in the midst of all of that incredible hope, light and empowerment, my heart ached. I still want to burn down the house and keep the foundation. For all that I am capable of changing; I cannot change the past for the beautiful men and women featured in Soulfire 2014.

I cannot change our past.

That hurts a little.

Okay.

It hurts a lot.

I don’t like it.  I don’t like it at all.

I have been side swiped. That car came out of nowhere. I didn’t really expect to love them so.

And now I do.

So of course, because I love them, my heart breaks for them and the things I want for myself, I want for them too.

I wish to honor their bravery but more than that, I wish I didn’t have to. I want to go back in time and rescue them. I want to barricade the entry to the path they were set on by force because none of them deserve to be here. None of us ever do.

I look at their intelligent, compassionate, determined, strong, brave, beautiful faces and I cannot accept that they were hurt.

It has been lovely to be the only survivor I know. It has allowed me to live in a quiet place where my wounds never brushed up against anyone else’s. It has afforded me a space where I only had to be intimate with my own injuries.

Isn’t that the strangest thing? I was completely caught off guard – heart open – and in they walked.

To know them, is to love them. Isn’t that a saying?

So my knees are pulled into my chest today. I am coaxing my heart back like turning egg whites into a fluffy, white puff.

Fear not.

It’s always better to know and by my calculations, that means it is always better to love.

Open and emptied out,

Tashmica

Soulfire Photoshoot
Photo Credit: McShane Photography