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.

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,

Healing happens in a place of safety.

“Did you hear what you just said?”

I didn’t. I had been rambling about my boys. I leaned back into the chair in my therapist’s office to think. The tree branches behind me snatched at my curls.

Yes. My therapist has a tree in her office that is constantly getting stuck in my hair.

I love it.

“That your boys are physical….”

She paused like a teacher giving the pupil a moment to catch up.

“Yes?” I said with my brow furrowed.

And…you love it.” she said slowly.

My hands shot up to my face. I peered at her between two hands pressed against my cheeks. I repeated the answer.

“And I love it.”

I whispered those words in disbelief and then the tears came. I bowed deeply in my chair and beneath that listening tree with relief. Tears of joy spilled forward and then I wiped my face and said,

“I almost made it through an entire session without crying.” Laughing I continued, “You fucking ruined it.”

She laughed but her eyes were harboring quickly escaping tears too.

You may not remember but there was a time where touch felt like the enemy. Connection and intimacy felt like a cheese grater on my soul. My healing required an end to passive consent. My soul needed some time to seek out it’s true loves. My body needed to learn what is safe, safe, safe…I am safe here.

I am safe here.

The little girl I was, the little girl in need of a constant barrier between her heart and connection is leaning into connection and intimacy. She is letting go of her shield. She is slowly backing away from the tools used to fortify walls. She is coming out to play, love, gaze, connect.

I love this girl. I love how she gazes into the eyes of her children. I love how she understands that criticism doesn’t mean that she is bad, dirty or broken. I love that she listens and can lie under a pile of freshly bathed and pajama dressed boys with wild abandon.

I love that she doesn’t seem to feel trapped anymore or not as much.

I have learned that healing happens in a place of safety.

-You deserve to live in wide open fields

I feared that my trauma was stealing joy from me and my children. Honestly, it did steal joy for a time until something shifted.

The story I told my therapist:

I held one of my sons in my arms. I gazed into his eyes and I simply paused. I didn’t move. I let him bathe in my love for him. It was like a freeze ray. He couldn’t remove himself from my adoration. I felt like I might be staring at him like a creep.

“Children don’t stare. They gaze.”

My therapist interjected that tidbit. Science has proven that when you are making eye contact with an infant and you stop, there is an immediate change in their brain chemistry. That chemical reaction identifies our basic need for attachment.

I held him and gazed at him until he was ready to go. All filled up with love.

My oldest son feels no shame about kissing his mother goodbye. My middle son starts his days by leaning into me with his face tilted upwards for a kiss.

“Good morning, momma.”

My boys are physically affectionate and I love it. It has taken 3 years but I am the mother I always wanted to be.

Fearlessly affectionate, hilariously embarrassing and stingy with the ice cream.12015233_10153641036623588_5375878501296692331_o

But mostly that first one.

Healing up,

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PS – Let’s talk about this more. Join me here.

A Chorus of You Are Worthy

Yesterday found me climbing the stairs of the MSU Union with a heavy box and an umbrella. It was raining and I had about 5 minutes to get myself to the room filled with about 25 people who registered for my Militant Self-Care Workshop.

By the time I got there, I was sweaty and breathing heavy. Lord. I burst through the doors at the top of the stairs to see a crowd waiting for me.

“Be cool, FC.”

I was not cool. I was hot as hell. Heat rises and that 3rd floor stairwell was baking. I was on time. Thankfully because in a superior moment of unrealistic expectations, I told everyone else:

“Our time together is precious and irreplaceable. Be on time. You can’t make this up.”

Guys. I am ALWAYS struggling to be on time. What was I even thinking?

I set an intention and I met it but man, that was a serious gamble against my natural tardy inclinations.

Anyhow, I made it and set up with help from some angels. Lydia, Lysne and Miranda – to be exact. I was nervous and shaky. I’d never done this particular workshop before but when have I ever let that stop me? I asked Miranda to open the doors and start checking people in. Lunch was offered because “eating is good self-care.” and we were off.

First of all, let me tell you that my PowerPoint was top notch and hilarious. Check Yourself.

Not only did Ice Cube make an appearance but so did the Phoenix. If people weren’t sure when to laugh, I helped them because I cracked myself up. I am my own laugh track.

Once we got into a groove, we had a beautiful conversation. I could see wheels turning. I could hear in the voices the absolute need for the song I was singin’ and then it happened.

A hand was raised. Timidly. I nodded, smiling. I was ready. Give it to me. Then she hit me with the question.

“What if you are not in a place where you feel like you are worthy of love yet?

Instantly my eyes welled up with tears and my chest tightened up. I knew that question. I’ve asked it before. Haven’t you?

Tell me about it. Join the conversation here.

The answer she was looking for was not one I could give. You can say the words but you can’t make someone feel worthy. I took a deep breath and decided to try anyway.

“You are worthy of love.”

She shrugged and nodded that she knew. It was the kind of knowing that comes without believing. I struggled to find the words. I choked them out.

“I think you are worthy. I can’t make you hear that. I can’t make you believe that. I wish I could but I can’t. You are brave for asking that question. That makes me love you. I can also tell you that there’s a room full of people here that agree with me. You are worthy.”

Then it happened. The room erupted into a symphony of you are worthies. Different voices, different words all formed in a sort of chorus singing to a broken heart.

Darling, you are worthy.

It was one of those moments that breaks one piece of your heart off while stitching another piece together. My spirit just stopped and said, “Yes, girl. This is it.”

There have been a lot of kind things said about me in the past 24 hours but I think the best testimonial I could give you happened in that room. It happened in the symphony I was able to conduct. Can you hear it?

You are worthy.10996165_10153101408618588_3173392778831113365_n

Love and big fences,

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PS – Check out what other people are saying below OR search the hashtag #militantselfcare on Instagram and Twitter.  Get ready to have your heart warmed.

This is my difficult.

My grandmother approached the topic like an airplane coming in for a landing. She circled the point with a story about a talk show episode she’d seen. As I listened, I met a friend at the door and silently motioned for her to come in.

Fridays have become an experiment of accountability at my place.

I’ve created a writers group of sorts. I’ve set aside a large window of time and offered an open invitation to some friends that I deem “writerly”. I’ve promised free wifi, hot water for tea, coffee and at least one clean bathroom. Aside from the recent string of snow days to have hit the Torok household, it is going well. I use the time to write and when necessary, to do some research.

On this day, I had called my grandmother to ask her about who my father was. This month is all about building his personality profile.

  • Who did my family think he was?
  • What does it mean to be a pedophile vs. a perpetrator? Which was he?
  • Was I his only victim?
  • What did he like to do?
  • Where did he like to go?

You get it.

To tell a better story, to understand him, I need to think about who he was beyond my abuser.

Yes, to answer the questions rolling around in your head, this is creepy. No, it is not fun. Yes, I do think it’s necessary. My mother says my dad* is worried about me, which in our family is a sign that you may be going to far. I’ve added some #militantselfcare to my life and I’m okay.

Dad, if you’re reading this, I promise.

My grandmother told me that she had been watching Maury Povich the other day. Their was a little girl on the show talking about a man who touched her private area. I wasn’t sure where this was going and then she landed.

“I’ve never asked because I didn’t want to bring it up,” she said. ” But is that what your father did to you? Did he just touch you or what happened?”

This is what happened in my head.

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Shit just got real. I turned on my heel to head upstairs and away from my guests. In that moment, I realized we’d never talked about this before. When I was 21 years old, I told her that my father had sexually abused me. Most people who knew me, knew this to be true but because of distance and a bit of a strain on our relationship since my father died, she didn’t know and neither did any of my father’s family.

If you were to ask me now, I would tell you that using terms like sexually abused or molested are correct and socially acceptable but they don’t define an experience. Those terms don’t tell the whole story. How could they?

When I was 21, I chose to tell my grandmother because I realized that I could never be fully me if she didn’t know. I realized that if I truly believed that the abuse was not my fault then I deserved to live shame free and in the truth.

CAN I LIVE?

Damn straight I can.

So sitting on my little stoop, sunning my legs, I nervously told her the truth. Only after she very directly told me to get on with it. She knew something terrible was on its way and she wanted me to let her face it head on.

Once the words tumbled out, she was sorry for me. She told me that she wished that she could have been there for me. There were probably more words that I can’t recall now and then I quickly got off the phone to escape the awkwardness of telling your father’s mother that he was a child molester. Because good times, am I right?

Now she asked for the details and I found myself saying, “Grandma, he raped me. Often and repeatedly.”

She said, “Didn’t he hurt you? How could that have happened? Weren’t you such a little girl?”

“Yes, grandma. I was six. The only thing I can say is that it must’ve happened so often that it didn’t hurt anymore. I think it probably started happening before I could remember.”

I was reporting. These were facts. The hard kind but the kind I know as my past. This is my story and I am, not comfortable but accustomed to the truth of it.

She is not. This was the first time she’d heard it. These truths were landing around her for the first time and I could almost hear them shatter as they hit her skin and fell to the ground. There was the sound of anger and pain in her voice.

“He would have gone to jail,” she raged. “Grandma would’ve seen to it.”

And it was those words, spoken to me as if I were still a little girl that broke my heart again.

Just this week, I spoke to a class of sociology students at Michigan State University and one of them asked me if I had forgiven my father. This topic comes up a lot. We know that forgiveness can offer healing. We are told that it is about you not the person who hurt you. I believe those things to be true.

However, painful, brokenhearted moments like this one is why I also believe that forgiveness is not a one act play. It’s a long running series. Forgiveness is kind of like the never-ending run of those tragic daytime soap operas that we have only recently given up.

Unless you have the Soap Opera Network. In which case, #neverforget.

Forgiveness for me has had to be approached with the acceptance that it is a process for repeated, long term injuries.

When my children offer to include my father in the list of the dead they want to pray for, forgiveness prevents me from screaming that he doesn’t deserve their prayers. It allows me to sit back and recognize that if there’s any one soul in need of prayer in the afterlife, it’s probably my father’s. I can’t imagine there’s much peace or rest for him.

Forgiveness is not pity or absolution. It does not mean there are no consequences. It just means that I forgive. Rage, sorrow, relief – everything else is still on the table.

Grandma, cannot see to anything in the past. I can tell you that her assurances that she would have seen to it if given the opportunity, spoke such kindness to the little girl in me. There’s some comfort in the idea of my grandmother pursuing justice on my behalf.

I never imagined that she would choose me over her son. Before I told her my story, it was the burden that weighed the heaviest on my heart.

Why would my father’s family trust me? Why would they choose me?

As we begin to end our phone call, I headed down the stairs and towards my friends.

“You call me anytime. I know that what happened was horrible but I love you. Please don’t shut me out.”

And there is the answer to it all.

The answer to who I am, how I have survived and why anyone would believe me. The answer to why I do what I do and go where I go is in those words.

I am tremendously loved.

I have called her anytime. I have chosen not to shut her out. I have chosen to pull the tentacles of darkness that have seeped from my father’s legacy out of the relationship that I have with his family because to forget him, I have to forget them. That would be my easy. To remember him, is to remember where he came from. That is my difficult.

“Goodbye, Grandma. I won’t. I love you.”

I sat down at my desk, turned to my friends and said, “Guys. My grandmother just asked me what happened for the first time.”

Stunned I murmured, “I guess I’m not the only one asking the difficult questions around here.”10996165_10153101408618588_3173392778831113365_n

Sincerely,

PS – I know I opened lots of room for discussion in this one. It’s only going to get deeper. Hit me up in the comments.

* For clarity here, I will admit that the man I call dad now is my stepfather. He will hate reading this. (Hi dad. I know I’m your baby girl. Pretend like you didn’t see this!)

Let gratitude be your guide

I have been back from Colorado for two weeks.

The dust has settled.

For a moment there, I was wrestling things of the past. I was barely eating. Insomnia was back with a vengeance. I was on a Netflix, business, fill every second binge that ended with a crying jag on the way to a superhero movie with my husband.

I’ve filled my fridge (and my body) with healthier food. I am still struggling to get back on a legit sleeping routine but the tension of struggling to disappear from my past is lifting. The acceptance is coming back to replace the struggle to make it not be.

I’ve been having trouble deciding how to explain the experience of the trip. I’m still not sure how to write it all down. Regardless, I started today.

I sat on my porch and enjoyed a sunny morning of writing.

As a side note, the wisteria I planted has decided to stay. It’s little green vines are hugging the railing on my steps. I think we are going to be good friends.

Today, for you, I’ve decided to start in the middle.

I am going to start at the most important moment.

When the words that I had been holding behind my back the entire time I’d been in Colorado stumbled out.

I am going to begin with the moment I reached across the table for my teacher, grasped her hand and said,

“You saved me.”

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Me, Rue and the hands of my past teacher and my recent contemporary, Lisa Griffin.

 

I’ve been holding this photo quietly.

Jena quickly snapped this shot and sent it to me after the meal. It’s one I couldn’t share right away.

It was such a profound moment for us all.

For those of you who don’t remember, I went to Denver, Colorado to see my teacher Lisa Griffin (formerly Mrs. Pease) and kick off the beginning of the Soulfire 2015 Calendar for The Firecracker Foundation. She was the first person I told about the sexual abuse I had suffered at the hands of my own father when I was just 6 years old. It continued until his death when I was 8 years old and I disclosed to her when I was 9.

You can read more about that here, here and here.

We were eating at an authentic Korean restaurant that is reminiscent of one we both loved to dine at when we lived in El Paso.

The conversation was deep and heavy. We had a private room and the memories unfolded. The dark parts of who my father was and how he treated me were shared. We discussed my telling her and how she reacted. Lisa* told me things I didn’t remember about that time.

She said of my mother,

“I could see the horror on her face.”

The horror.

I don’t think that phrase will ever leave me.

She gave me heartbreaking insight into some of my father’s behavior that made me ugly cry in a room full of people and inspired her husband to come place his arms around my shoulders to remind me that I was safe.

I was safe but sometimes when you step into your past, you forget that you can just as easily step back into your beautiful present.

The trip began with excitement and lightheartedness.

I was a little surprised at how emotional the undertaking was.

Probably because deep down, I truly do believe that I can handle anything.

Ha. It’s true I suppose but that doesn’t make it easy, grasshopper.

As of today, I am unpacking all that I experienced. I am looking through the photos and thinking of all of the ways this experience has changed me.

As I was wandering through Denver with friends new and old, drinking mimosas, taking funny pictures, eating delicious donuts, hiking in the Rockies and skating with a different team, I kept saying one thing to myself.

Let gratitude be your guide.

As I contemplated what brought me to seek Lisa out, I thought about how perfectly she was placed for me. I thought about how it was impossible to know at the age of 9 that she was working to serve survivors and that she was a survivor herself. I thought about our connection and how much her laugh, her sense of humor is still the same. I was grateful that my heart was tied to my teacher’s in a way that made me bold.

I have said thank you and in that expression, I have learned much about my past and in some ways, I believe I have learned a lot about my future.

Follow your gratitude. Find the people, the places, the things that have served you and honor them.

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Tourist like a boss.

Whisper through smiling tears, “You saved me.”

In your words, you will inspire people to continue to make their difference in a world of people you may never know.

Thank you. You saved me. I felt rescued.

Words that encourage the rescuers, the saviors, the finders of the lost and the healers of the broken.

Say them. Write them.

Make a record of the rights in a world of wrongs.

It’s safe to go back for this kind of baggage. It’s appropriate to make this kind of upgrade.

I promise.

With gratitude,

Tashmica

 

Weeping Willow

If I were a tree, I would be a great willow.

I’ve always loved the softness of their tiny leaves, the flexibility of their branches and their melancholy, weeping appearance.

When I was a little girl, I swung from the branches of three willows in my grandmother’s yard.

I hid amongst the sweeping, canopy in the summer afternoons of visits to Michigan.

This winter has left our trees snapped, cracked and broken. Branches are lying in the snow. The ice was too heavy for their boughs and even in the lit up, crystal beauty of the storm, injury occurred.

I have always hidden my broken branches.

In middle school, while girls giggled about their first kisses and sexual experiences, I struggled to know enough to be cool and not enough to be considered a slut.

When I was triggered by my relationship with people, places or things in the world, I withdrew. I asked my mother to pretend to tell me that I couldn’t go out so I could avoid seeing anyone.

I didn’t know the word ‘trigger’ at the time though.

As we approach the 6 month anniversary of The Firecracker Foundation, I have experienced what I can only compare to the feeling of astonishment. After we met our fundraising goal last year, I felt stunned.

I felt paralyzed. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to breathe, or bend or stretch.

I wanted to be still.

What is this that I am feeling? Why am I afraid to move?

I felt as if my movement would shatter the world.

I felt like if I stretched everyone would finally see all of the broken branches at my feet. I felt like my warm breath would melt the snow that had hidden them so well.

Because I am broken. Right?

That’s what I’ve been surviving. I’ve been healing all of the things torn away from me in childhood. I’ve been mending, bandaging and wrapping up wounds.

I’ve been hoping, for the most part, that I hid it well.

Look at that smile. Look at that capable, smart, creative girl. Look at that mother and wife. Look at that derby girl. Look at that giving, compassion loving lady.

Look but don’t look down. There are branches scattered all around me.

Sure, I’ve shared pieces of what I’m healing and where in this blog. I’ve definitely had tearful heart to hearts with friends too.

I still maintain that I have never met a thought I couldn’t share.

However, in some ways I’m still that 8-year-old girl hoping no one notices she’s really just dirty and broken.

Some of the branches I lopped off myself. Self destruction and worthlessness can make you try and burn off the things you’ve been convinced are wrong with you. True or not, the shears come out and you prune like Edward Scissorhands to make yourself normal like everyone else.

Or normal like no one else but less like you.

Here I am after the launch of an incredibly supported and embraced foundation and I am feeling through it all.

What is this frozen, stunned, catatonic state? Why does this growth and expansion make me so uncomfortable? Where has this journey brought me?

It has brought me to discover and examine the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I am not broken.

Maybe the branches at my feet are broken but I am still the tall, sweeping willow tree.

Is it possible that I have been hiding a secret deformation that never existed in the first place?

Is it possible that the abuse I suffered did not make me inherently dirty, misshapen, worthless, incompetent or broken at the core?

It is possible.

It is possible to heal from an injury without always thinking that injury somehow makes you a lesser human being.

It is possible for branches to break off of a strong, living tree. It is possible to love the deep, digging roots, the thick trunk and the wide spreading canopy of leaves without assessing it a lower value because of unexpected and undeserved losses.

I’m still pulling the word broken out of my trunk like a fence line tangled too close.

I’m figuring this one out. I’m letting it sink in.

It’s a whisper. It’s a half question, a wonderment. It’s the possibility that I made a false agreement with myself under duress.

I’m toying with a declaration:

I am not broken.

From the roots to the tree, let it be.

Love from the branches of a weeping willow,

Tashmica