Shark Attack

Oh my goodness!

Does anyone know Mick Fanning’s blood type? Because his escape from that shark attack at the J-Bay Surf League Championship competition the other day was either pure miracle or he is certified half-human and half-beast! What a moment! Needless to say, for Mick’s sake, I am happy he survived; however, for the sake of everyone watching live, I am happy that we did not have to witness a tragedy.

After watching this near-death encounter, I started lecturing surfers everywhere… in my head of course. “If you know there are sharks in the ocean, why go out into the deep blue sea to dangle your little feet out there as bait? Is riding a wave really worth your life? Did the World Surf League even check to see if there were sharks in those waters? I would sue! This is exactly why I don’t go messing with sharks! If there is no boat to shield me from shark snack time gone wrong, then I am all set right here on the shore. Why play with danger? If you are silly enough to go out there, then you…”

Yes, for a split second I almost ignorantly suggested that someone deserved to get a limb chomped off because they were adventurous enough to live out a dream. Well, after doing my research I discovered that there is only a 1 in 4,000,000 chance of being killed by a shark. Mick was living his life and chasing his dream in the face of a low probability fear. Yet, there I was cowardly lecturing all surfers when I should have been asking myself about the low probability fears I have yet to conquer in my own life. At that point, I decided that I could probably learn a thing or two from Mr. Mick Fanning.

First off, Mick survived by only doing one thing correctly. The media headlines say, Mick Fanning “Battles Shark” and “Bravely Fights Off” attack. From the looks of it, Mick was terrified and did what any of us would do– scream, kick, and swim away for dear life! Overall, he did exactly what the surviving-a-shark-attack experts say NOT to do. He panicked. He turned his back to it. He tried to out swim it. The only thing that he did correctly was to hit the shark in an attempt to scare it away!  This is a great lesson because this means that (1) we don’t have to be perfect in order to win and (2) we don’t have to look perfect (or pretend to look perfect) while fighting the sharks of life. It is unrealistic to think that we will not break a sweat in the midst of a challenging battle. We are human and great human warriors sweat too. If you don’t believe me, then watch the movie 300.

Early on in life, I thought that defeating a challenge meant destroying it completely. If I was too weak to stand there, fight, and destroy it like David did Goliath, I would be disappointed with myself up for seeming weak. On the other hand, if I destroyed the challenge, but did it with a scary-cat panicked demeanor, I would also downplay the accomplishment. Mick teaches us that escaping and surviving doesn’t always need to be pretty and heroic; it just needs to be practical. In life there are sharks– plenty of them– and I am sure that (for the most part) in the end it doesn’t matter how we look when we are fighting them off. We just need to get the heck out of danger and keep living! Survival is not always pretty, perfect, and heroic; sometimes it is panicked and hectic, and that’s OK.

Secondly, thank God for adrenaline! Seriously. I don’t think that anyone would have anticipated this shark attack at the J-Bay Competition, but it happened unexpectedly anyway. When I think about life, I see similar situations happening to people all time. You are sitting there enjoying life, living a dream, accomplishing a goal, working hard to win, and then BOOM! A shark, or in our case, people and circumstances come to take a bite out of that body! Usually, this concept discourages me: I am on a mission to do good and then sharks try to destroy me! It is even more devastating when the human shark monsters attack you intentionally. What I admire most about Mick is that he fought back even though he was terrified! I can imagine that he saw his life flash right before his eyes. Ultimately, Mick decided that survival was more likely if he kept moving! Hitting the shark with force gave him enough time to get away– and that was all he needed. In the end it worked and he survived.

What is wrong with just “dodging the bullet?” What is wrong with simply escaping the shark attack? Surviving is just as courageous! At least you are alive to tell your story! Are there life-sharks seemingly appearing out of nowhere ready to eat you alive? Are you dealing with the unexpected and feel like it might be the end of you? Well, as in the case of Mick Fanning, KEEP MOVING; and if you are frightened, panicked, and everything in between, still keep moving! Remember, escaping and surviving doesn’t always need to be pretty and heroic, it just needs to be practical. You just might survive. Correction: You will survive!

Whatever you do, just don’t let the sharks take you under!

Photo Credit: CNN News courtesy of WSL

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Daddy, I Am NOT Eating That!

It is important to pay attention to the world around us and keep a close eye out for the clues and crumbs that lead us to an understanding of how to better navigate the world. I love a good life lesson. That’s what this blog is all about! However, as I live life, I am learning that a great life lesson is not always learned the hard way or even through great struggle. Sometimes, life lessons are found in the silver linings, the fumbles, and even the humorous. It’s fun to find lessons in odd places because it keeps us laughing, positive, and optimistic. I learned two valuable life lessons when my father was tasked with making me and my brother a sandwich when I was around 9 or 10 years old.

Ok, so my father is literally the most innovative and ingenious person I know. This guy can fix anything, with anything, in any place. The most amazing part about it is that he does not have any sort of formal engineering degree but can still solve a problem like no one I have every encountered. The end product may not always look beautiful, but it is functional and normally working again. The man is a genius and can solve mostly any problem he has ever been presented with except this one small task my mother left for him to do– to make my brother and I a sandwich!

It was a Saturday and my mother had gone to work for the day. One of my brothers and I were going to be the only kids in the house for the day. My mother didn’t have time to make food in advance like she normally does, so she asked my Dad to make us a sandwich for lunch. Now it is important to note that my parents mostly ate home-cooked food and rarely ate out when I was younger. My mom would branch out and experiment, but my Dad… well let’s just say he liked what he liked and American deli sandwiches were not high on his list back then!

I waltzed down into the kitchen for the yummy sandwich that I had complete faith my Daddy dearest was capable of making. He is generally a good cook, so I was pretty excited. Upon entering the kitchen, the four slices of bread were already neatly assembled on the kitchen table– two for me and two for my brother. So, he began to make the sandwich. Peanut butter… jelly… cheese…

Me (in shock and horror): “Daddy, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

Slightly annoyed and startled, he replies, “What do you mean? I am making you a sandwich?”

Me: “Daddy, NO. That’s disgusting. You can’t put cheese with peanut butter and jelly! I am NOT eating that.”

To my shock, he was not done with his master sandwich! To the peanut butter, jelly, and cheese, he added lettuce and deli meat! (I am sure I am leaving out at least one ingredient. Nonetheless, all I know is that the ingredients he assembled were sure to break some kind of record for nastiest sandwich). So, the debating began…

Me: “Daddy, that’s disgusting! Are you serious right now?”

Dad: “What do you mean? You guys eat this stuff all the time! Doesn’t Mommy put this in the sandwich all the time?” he yelled.

Me: “Yes, but not all at the same time Daddy!”

Dad: “Well, whatever! It is all going to the same place anyway! You either eat it or not. I am not making another sandwich!”

In the hopes that my father would understand the difference between sandwich contents, I called my brother down who is 3 years old than me. Well, he too was shocked and tried to talk some sense into the sandwich slaughterer, but it didn’t work. He was convinced his sandwich was gourmet and we were certain it was certified gross! In the end we didn’t eat it. I munched on a few snacks until my mother came home to rescue us from the nastiest sandwich any human had ventured to assemble! I cannot stop laughing every time I think about this story because my father is truly hilarious for this one. And trust me, I remind him of it every time I remember it.

Lesson 1: Do not be so quick to copy some one’s actions or life choices if you don’t know all the details of how they arrived there (and the consequences they endured getting there). Do you know my father’s reason for making this disgusting sandwich? He said he saw my mother use those ingredients all the time when she was making sandwiches for us! Are you kidding me? Well Daddy, you needed to pay closer attention buddy because she clearly never put those ingredients together at the same time in one sandwich! But isn’t his mistake much like ones we often make in life? We see other people’s success or we watch what they have achieved; then we just try to duplicate it without first doing our research to see how they got there in the first place. Do we know the details of their journey or are we blindly imitating them in the hopes of creating a masterful sandwich? Exactly. Then we are surprised when no one wants to eat our sandwiches. Sorry Dad, epic fail. Do your research before you start trying to blindly copy Mommy– the master cook of the house.

Lesson 2: Don’t allow ANYONE to make you physically, emotionally, or mentally ill– even if they are your dearest friend or family. There was no way on earth that I was going to eat that sandwich at that time. If I was on Fear Factor and it stood between me and $1,000,000, then gobble, gobble, gobble! However to eat it at home after I dreamed of a yummy sandwich all morning, absolutely NOT. I figured out a plan B and waited until my mommy came home. That sandwich would have made me vomit; and in the not vomiting versus not making my Dad feel bad about his epic fail of a sandwich game, I chose to not make myself sick. I love my Dad very much. He is one of my favorite people on the planet, but there was no way I was going to make myself sick just because he’s my Dad and I love him. Are you allowing someone you love (family, friends, acquaintances) to make you physically, emotionally, and mentally sick in the name of love, kindness, friendship, etc? We are little good to ourselves and those we love, if we are not at our best. I am sorry, but being emotionally and mentally sick because we keep eating crap (figuratively) from other people is ridiculous, not to mention poisonous. It is important to recognize that some times people are not intentionally trying to hurt us, but ultimately they are. It is our job to know our self, know our limit(s)– and with the help of God– know what’s best for us. That nasty sandwich was my limit. God bless my Dad’s heart, and I know he wasn’t intentionally trying to make me sick, but I would still not eat that sandwich.

Life is not always this big bad wolf that wants to blow our little house down. It wants to laugh with us, dance with us, and show us that life is all about growth, love, learning, and laughter. All there is for us to do is keep our eyes opened for sandwich slaughterers like my Dad trying to feed us the yuckiest food on the planet. Keep your eyes open, your heart receptive, and remember, DON’T EAT IT!

The Conundrum: Being Strong

After breaking my silence about a personal life event, I know there are a lot of people that suddenly have a lot of questions. My original post was intended to shed more light on an issue in our society than a whirlwind of questions about me. However, I accept the questions and curiosity as a part of the journey. In the initial aftermath, I noticed that there was one reoccurring message among conversations with people that personally know me– they have always viewed me as strong and smart. It is so sweet and wonderful for so many people to say this. To be honest it is oddly reassuring, yet in it also lies one of the descriptors that has caused unnecessary emotional turmoil throughout my life– STRONG. I have always aspired to be a women of great strength so I am happy that this trait is visible to others. However, for a long time my desire to be “strong” caused me great distress because I had no clue about what “being strong” really meant in practice. In my opinion, being strong and feeling strong are two different things and there is no great lesson in school that teaches us the differences between the two. For me, it is something I had to figure out over time.

Somehow I developed the misconception that being strong and smart meant that I always had to feel and act strong and smart. I had this idea that I couldn’t let people see my greatest weaknesses or else they might question my strength. In reality I was probably more terrified that if I acknowledged those weaknesses to myself it would disapprove what I believed about myself– I am strong. So when people kept saying how strong and smart they always viewed me to be, I started to wonder if this somehow meant they no longer believed it as much as they once did. The old way of thinking tried to sneak its little way back into my mind. After the comments, concerns, shock, and testimonies started rolling in, I started worrying about how this news would affect people’s image of me as a person. Would they think that the strength, drive, smile, laughs, ambition, and positivity we shared was all a lie? I mean, I worked so hard to overcome this adversity and serve as an inspiration for others so the last thing that I want is for people to treat me differently or question the many good times and happy days that we shared together. Yes, this little mind of mine was trying to test me! But, rest assured everyone; I passed the test in the end. Of course, without a doubt I know I am strong. How could I have overcome this secret adversity if I wasn’t? Yes, I may have scars, but I am still me.

In our society, people look up to the “strong.” Every Marvel comic superhero has his/her weakness, yet even though they often come close to demise in every movie, we still wish we could take a special daily multi-vitamin to gain some of their superpowers. We admire people that seem to endure adversity and subsequently emerge as victors. Well, as a young girl I had no clue about the complexities of strength, of how I even attained that label, or how to understand what it really internally feels like in a complicated world. Before the assault, I was strong. So after the assault, and when I felt I was over it (if that is ever really possible), I felt that I needed to continue being what I knew myself to be– strong. I thought feeling strong meant feeling confident, powerful, and happy. So, in my mind it should work in reverse order– being strong must mean being confident, being happy, and being powerful. Clearly, it takes more than a few years of life to develop confidence, happiness, and unwavering strength, yet I was certain that when I was not doing these things or feeling like this, I was not strong.

While my secret was significant and traumatic, I had a life, dreams, and other issues outside of it that I wanted to focus on as much as I could. In my adolescent ignorance, and in the face of a world that seems to enjoy playing dodgeball with human life, I set out to (1) feel, look, and embody my strength and (2) to fulfill my dreams. WHAM! Doubt. WHAM! Insecurity. WHAM! Failure. Mistakes. Fear. Acceptance. WHAM! WHAM! Loss. WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! Ball after ball, life was starting to put my strength to the test and I felt that the whole world was watching to see how strong I really was. In reality everyone was probably worried about their own issues, but I told myself that letting other people see my pain would mean that I wasn’t strong. Where did I even come up with this crap? It is kind of funny; we really believe some warped ideas at times. Think about it. When an elite athlete is interviewed on TV immediately after a game, are they not breathing pretty hard? Aren’t they usually tired, sore, and possibly on the brink of exhaustion? Exactly! So, why would I ever think that exhaustion signaled the lack of strength?  This is real strength, not the silly mentally I had. Strength says, “I ran the race and finished. I tripped, fell, am tired, and sore, but I did not and will not give up. I will be back.”

After living life a little more, one the greatest discoveries I made was to realize and understand true strength through the lens of fitness and sports. In my athletic heyday, I could lift a pretty hefty amount of weight in the weight room. I was a young female athlete on a mission to sprint faster and run longer. I was am proud of my strength at that time. But I have to tell you, I was usually physically sore most of the time during the season! Eventually, I accepted soreness as a necessary component of building strength and after a while I got used to it. It was natural. “No pain, no gain,” right?  Overtime, I was less sore and very strong. In the beginning, I would say to myself, “Get it together girl. You are stronger than this. You are supposed to be strong.” In the end, I began to understand that I am “not stronger than this” but rather “I am strong because of this.” In my mind feeling strong once meant feeling confident, happy, and powerful. Well, on the journey to building strength one does not often feel confident and happy about difficult training and subsequent soreness. I finally started to see that strength is more a behavior than it is a feeling. From that point on, I learned to stop questioning my strength whenever I discovered another area of weakness. I was as strong as I believed I was and as strong as everyone says I am. Looking at strength this way has given me freedom in times when the weight of trauma, loss, failure, and disappointment are at an all time high. I was free to show the world that my physical and emotional “soreness” by no means was a sign of weakness, rather a sign of great strength.

In the end, I began to understand that I am “not stronger than this” but rather “I am strong because of this.” […] I finally started to see that strength is more a behavior than it is a feeling.

In most areas of success, business, or fitness, it is imperative to analyze areas of weakness in order to make the necessary adjustments to improve performance. It is no different for “strong” people. Anyone who is willing to reflective, notice their weaknesses, and take action toward improving themselves is strong. Strength is never an indication that a person is not carrying a heavy weight; it just means that they are choosing to never let it overtake them. Everyone displays emotions differently and everyone deals with things differently. If someone who is viewed as “strong” displays their emotions in a different way, it in no way indicates that their hurt is easier, lighter, or their character stronger or better. It just means that everyone is different and yet everyone is the same– human.

Strength is never an indication that a person is not carrying a heavy weight; it just means that they are choosing to never let it overtake them.

As we weave through the characters and complex world around us, remember that everyone has a story. They may never tell you the story or act it out before you eyes, but that doesn’t mean that their pages are not filled with complicated stories like everyone else. Never think that a “strong” person has never experienced great emotional challenges. Most likely, it is their journey through those challenges that makes them who they are! Chances are you are one heck of a strong person too; maybe even more than you know. And yes, life will play dodgeball against you too! Listen, you grab life by the balls and start fighting back with all you’ve got! You might feel a WHAM or a dozen along the way, but that’s OK. When you take the hit, you regroup and knock those challenges right back on its _ _ _ ( ← clue: another word for butt)! What? Strong people don’t swear… 😉

Me Too: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of One Sexually Assaulted Girl

When the news first broke about Bill Cosby and the numerous alleged sexual assaults, like most of you, I read different posts and articles yet could not figure out what or even who I believed. At first, I did find it strange that so many women waited so long to speak out against Cosby. Why now? Article upon article questioned the authenticity of the women involved and many others desperately tried to defend one of American’s favorite TV dad’s. I am not sure why I personally questioned why the accusers waited so long because I too have been keeping my silence.

Growing up so many people watched The Cosby Show in the hopes of someday attaining the image of one of America’s successful TV families. If you were an African-American living during the prime of the show, you could not help but support and love it because there were not many successful African-American families displayed on TV. Overall it was an endearing show, so Black, White, Asian, or Latino, you probably also loved it. Therefore, when the allegations started pouring in, many people’s first instinct was to deny the reality that a man so adored and loved could have drugged and sexually assaulted so many women.

As more women started speaking out, I started to think that these allegations were less likely a coincidence or a lie. There were just too many women from too many different walks of life. If someone was “paying them” to do this, that person must be a billionaire because 39 accusers (and rising) amounts to a lot of money that I can’t imagine shelling out just to ruin another person’s reputation. From racial animosity to desperate claims for money, the accusers (for the most part) were vilified in the media by citizens and celebrities alike. Well, on July 6th, major news outlets reported that documents dating back to 2005 revealed Bill Cosby admitting to (1) obtaining drugs with the intent to utilize them on women and (2) that he used these drugs on at least one woman. With the release of his dated admission, every doubter, questioner, and supporter alike probably started to change their minds on the subject.

Although the release of these documents confirm the likelihood of sexual assault against numerous women, one major question still remains– why did the majority of the women wait so long to say something? Was it fear, denial, shock, the belief that no one would believe them anyway, or did some of them just lie to obtain fame? No matter what reasons the women have cited for their lengthy silence, some people will never understand or accept it. I feel even worse for the few women who started speaking out years ago and were silenced. Bill Cosby never assaulted me nor could I ever begin to explain or understand how these particular women felt throughout all their years of silence. However, I think I might be able to shed some light on why they might have waited so long because I too was once sexually assaulted.

This is the first time I am sharing this with more than a few people. None of my siblings know. The majority of my friends have no idea. I finally told my mom a few months ago and my father still has no clue (I think). To be perfectly honest, I hope he never reads or hears about this blog post because I think his heart would break, literally. Hopefully my story will help someone understand the emotional and mental maze that begins to form in the mind of someone that has been sexually assaulted. When the assault is by someone you have known for a while or respected for some time, the mental maze becomes even more complicated.

Before I begin, let me just say a few things. If you are reading this and you personally know me, please refrain from guessing who my assaulter is. Chances are you will be wrong and draw damaging false conclusions in your head. If you have more questions, contact me directly. Secondly and sadly, I have never brought charges against this person, so for that reason I will not include too many details. This post is more about shedding light on the emotional roller coaster that a sexual assault victim may experience. So with that focus, let’s get into the mental maze…

  • Shock: Without getting too deep into the details of who, what, when, where, why, and how (it would be very long and likely blow your mind), I will undoubtedly say that the first emotion I went through was shock. I never in a million years thought that I would be a victim of sexual assault. My assaulter was someone that I respected and interacted with on a daily/weekly basis throughout my high school career. My friends and teammates also highly respected this person and he was very close to some of their families. Never believing this would happen to me is probably one of the reasons my first emotion was shock. I watched movies and shows involving sexual assault and always imagined that I would use some major fight moves to escape such a situation if it ever happened to me. Sadly, my moves failed me.
  • Questioning: “What is he doing? What should I do? How do I get out of here? What did I do to give this person the impression that I wanted this? Were there signs about this person that I missed? What will my parents say? Will my friends– who love this person– believe me? Has this happened to anyone else? What will happen to this person if I tell? And the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, in my case, the biggest question in my head then (and to some extent now) is “what did I ever do to make this man do this to me?” Logically, I know that I absolutely did nothing. All my interactions with this person were always surrounding sports or life, yet this question still baffled me. I can only imagine how this question plagues the minds of other victims of sexual assault.
  • Blaming Yourself: This thought/emotion somewhat follows the many questions. Regardless of the innocence you know you have in the situation, it can be extremely difficult to refrain from second guessing how you handled the situation before, during, and after the act. For me, this person assaulted me numerous times, so I blame myself for not saying something to someone after the first instance. I always considered myself to be a strong person, so I was disappointed that I didn’t speak out after the first instance. Instead I worried more about how all my friend’s lives would change if I said something. This person was a father figure to some of my teammates and others depended on this person’s expertise to open doors for athletic scholarships. If I said something, I might ruin their lives, or at least that’s what I thought at the time. I blamed myself for my silence.
  • Guilt of Ruining the Abuser’s Life: This one might be a little hard for you to understand. Since I spent a significant amount of time with this person, I knew a lot about this person’s life. He was not married, had no kids, had very few friends, spent most time working, and spent little time with siblings and family due to distance. Before the incident I often felt very bad for this person. My friends and I even spent time joking about how he should date different older women that we knew or how he needed to go partying with his friends and switch up the routine of work-home-work. I had pity and in a weird way I could understand how someone like this person could become desperate and dysfunctional. So when I was faced with putting this person in prison and destroying the little life he had, I couldn’t do it. In hindsight, I wish I did. No one deserves what I went though and he should have thought more about his life before he chose to assault young women.
  • Letting other people down:  As I contemplated whether I would speak up, I was torn between the right thing to do and the many people that would be devastated by the news. First, my parents. One of my parent’s biggest warnings and concerns was always to be safe at all times. They did everything they could to keep their children out of harm. How was I doing to break this news to them? I was afraid they would never let me go anywhere else throughout high school, and more importantly, that my little sister would never get to go anywhere without my parents panicking. So, I said nothing. Secondly, my friends. How would they take the news that one of their favorite people was a creepy assaulter? I didn’t know if he was assaulting them too. I tried to watch for changes in their behavior, but I couldn’t find any. In my uncertainty, I kept quiet. In the end, I confronted the person about it (it didn’t go well) and used my independence and maturity to navigate my way out of the assaults and away from that person. The sad news is that I couldn’t avoid being around the person on a weekly/daily basis so I pretended to be okay so that my friends would not figure out the truth.
  • Feeling tainted and unwanted: I know. This emotion/thought makes no sense. Because of all the varying ranges of sexual assault we see in the media, I thought that people might view me as scarred. How will my boyfriend (at the time) react if I tell him I was sexually assaulted? Will that image be in his mind forever? Will he still want me? I was a teenager and these were the thoughts running through my teenage mind. Sad, but true.
  • Comparison: Who am I to complain? At least I wasn’t raped in a back alley by some stranger and then strangled to death. At least I wasn’t molested by one of my family members. At least… At least… At least. You know the saying “someone always has it worse than you?” Well, this is probably a sexual assault victim’s worse enemy. Although what happened to me was traumatic, it was not the worse case of sexual assault that I ever heard. I was not drugged, beaten, or killed. Therefore, I kept telling myself to get over it and move on, to stop being sorry for myself and be grateful that something worse didn’t happen. Why ruin this person’s life and make a big deal when it wasn’t “that bad?” Right? It made no sense, but like I said, the emotions are like a roller coaster and the mind like a maze.
  • Alone and Misunderstood: Carrying the burden of silence sucks both emotionally and mentally. You really want to scream at the top of your lungs about the emotional confusion you are going through, but at the same time you know that you can’t bring yourself to say something (for some of the reasons already outlined in this post). Of course, I thought I never changed emotionally and believed that no one would see the pain that I was in. However, I may have been successful on the outside, but was failing miserably on the inside. It manifested in many different ways. I didn’t want to get up for school in the morning and was constantly late; I felt depressed behind my laughs and bubbly personality; I failed classes in school that as an A and B student I never thought I would fail; I overcompensated in other relationships because they felt safe; and I strained my relationship with my mom because she confronted me on different occasions about the “change in attitude” and of course I always replied, “I am fine.” For a long time, I felt alone and misunderstood. I isolated myself from certain people in order to cope and I would keep many people at arm’s length so they wouldn’t indirectly figure out my secret.
  • Depression: It is a great misconception that the only depressed people are those that never get out of bed, eat tubs of ice cream, cry often, isolate, and walk with their head down. Well, sadly, due to my little secret I can say that I struggled with depression from time to time behind my bright smile and all my laughs. This is not to say that my love of laughter was a facade, but it does mean that sometimes my laughter was to keep from crying. It also means that at night when the laughter stopped, I often cried. Yet on the bright side, I can unequivocally say that it means that my laughter and smile saved me.

The emotions and thoughts outlined above are only those of my story. Also, these are in no way a complete list of the possible emotions. I am sure that other people who have been sexually abused can relate, but I also know that I cannot and do not speak for every situation or every person.  It is sad that society and certain circumstances make it difficult for people to feel that they can speak out against respected and well-known people when they have committed wrongdoings.

In our society, some people are dishonest about sexual assault and try to use it as a means to retaliate against other people. Unfortunately, at first the 39+ women in the Cosby case were probably perceived in this light. Now hearing the truth, I feel sad that they had to carry this burden for so long. The emotional trauma that lingers throughout the life of someone that never had the opportunity to share their hurt and trauma is complex. It undoubtedly affected many areas of their lives that they might never be able to go back and change. They often carried the burden alone and had to figure out different ways to hide their moments of confusion, sadness, and even rage. Hopefully, at some point throughout their silence they were able to find healing. For any woman that sat or sits in silence suffering in the mental maze, I stand in solidarity with you.

Yes, Bill Cosby has done great things for American TV, African-Americans in film, comedy, philanthropy, and education, but he might also be a sexual abuser (Technically in the American justice system he is innocent until proven guilty). If guilty, his successes should not trump the pain he has caused many women. Let’s use this as a lesson and if you are still questioning why these women (if he’s guilty) or any other women of sexual abuse took so long to speak out about their assault, I hope that this blog post has at least shed a little bit of light.

If you know of someone who has been sexually assaulted and has had to keep it a secret (for whatever reason), or if you have been the victim of sexual assault, I hope that one day you will be able to share you story. You are not alone.

#breakthesilence

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Protect Your Optimism

Man, oh man! How much bad, poor, negative news can we handle? Does anyone else feel like every time they turn around there is more bad news being reported? Yes, Facebook is usually filled with positive messages and laughs; Instagram with joyous photos and smiles; but, the news, forget about it– sad news upon weird news upon more sad news. Of course, there are many hopeful stories mixed in, but violence, rape, fraud, cancer, overdoses, war, terrorism, racism, death, and financial ruin seem more prevalent than the positive, the hopeful, and the good.

I often struggle with keeping a positive, hopeful, faith-filled head when I watch or receive dreadful news. In the moment, it really knocks a little bit of the wind out of me and makes me wonder if there is any good left in the world. In some instances, I find myself asking myself “why” this or that happened. Thereafter I usually utter a “God, help me,” put everything back into perspective, and realize more and more that living to the fullest is the only alternative to the negative surrounding us. Herein lies the good news: the more I attempt to live life to the fullest is the more that I realize and believe that there is still more positive than negative in the world.

Some time ago, I began thinking about how often fearful negative things actually happen to me or people I know. Throughout this exercise, I found that more negative instances did happen more in some areas than others, but overall the chances of the negative prevailing were lower than my fears would lead me to believe. In no way does this mean that I believe bad things will not or cannot happen to me or those that I know. It just means that although the negative, bad, discouraging events may happen, they are probably far less prevalent than my fears will allow me to believe.

Sometimes it can feel that negative things unceasingly happen to us. While this may or may not be true, the goal is to not lose hope and try not to become too overwhelmed by them. In the grand scheme of life, the statistics may still fall on the side of hope and good. If life does not feel positive right now, keep living and eventually the numbers will straighten themselves out. Who knows? Maybe the positivity and optimism we all seek lies inside of us all.

Protect your optimism, then, share it with the world.

Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/qBtgR4

Untangle Yourself.

Slaves to the mind, trapped back in time

Freedom seems to be confused with nickels and dimes

Success nothing more than a borrowed image

Satiated by perverted perspectives

Chained to rusty bars of mental prisons

Fighting for the chance to realize destiny

While clothed in costumes of hijacked dreams

Stolen language, borrowed frames

Walking in circles waiting for answers

Convinced that conquering the world will reveal it

Yet there’s still no dirt on the bottom of your shoe

And the real you still stands hidden inside of you

If you ever stopped to take an inventory of your thoughts, frustrations, goals, and priorities, you will often find that they have become wildly webbed with borrowed pieces of other people’s goals, fears, and thoughts. Sometimes those borrowed pieces are beneficial and help us push toward finding our true self. Other times, however, those borrowed pieces weigh us down in knotted webs that seem to make finding our true self more stressful than just living out other people’s dreams and expectations for us.

However, it is necessary to determine how entangled you are with the images, goals, fears, and expectations of others. On that journey of disentanglement, you will find happiness, freedom, and purpose in life. Until you make the first steps to untangle yourself, you will always have the weight of the skeleton of the real you pulling you under water. It may not seem like it at first, but once you bring that skeleton to life — by accepting and embodying who you were created to be– you will feel lighter, happier, and less like you are constantly drowning in a world that seems to enjoy pushing you under water.

Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/bsszvi

Ask Me: http://wp.me/P31EeG-hg

Accepting the Cards I Am Dealt.

Life Question: Why are we dealt different cards in life? And what should we do if we don’t like the cards we are dealt?

“Why them and not me?” Let’s be honest folks. Throughout your life, how many times have you had some variation of this question? Personally, I have had this thought invade my mind probably close to 10,000 times on topics both serious and insignificant. I hope you don’t think that I actually counted because that would mean I am a little crazy ;).

In general, I am not an expert card player so I cannot come up with some great analogy using Poker, BlackJack, Spades, or Solitaire to answer this question. UNO, however, is a card game that I secretly wish I could use as an analogy here because I already have some people in mind that I would make “Draw Four.” Not to mention, I would like to “Skip” some hard work and get to the beautiful ending. Clearly, if the greatest analogy I can come up with is UNO, then I should probably stop while I am ahead.

I love competition (to a certain degree), however, card games have never been my thing. I am sure the fact that my parents used to believe that card games and gambling was of the devil (I think they have since spoken to Jesus directly about this) is probably a better explanation of my level of suck at these kinds of games. My high school also used to confiscate card games at lunch as a violation of the code of conduct. So, if life was a big card game I would be at a great disadvantaged due to my somewhat sheltered childhood! Thank God it is not quite a card game.

Figuratively, I do believe that life has dealt me a “hand” of cards. We all have been dealt “hands.” The good news is that we are not really competing against each other. We don’t need to scheme and trade cards in order to increase our chances of winning the game called life. In reality, we are more than likely competing against ourselves, and the missing or more valuable cards are somewhere hidden inside us (or are close by). If the “hand” we are dealt sucks, there might be a few different ways of looking at it:

1. We are equipped with everything we need to find the “better” cards, therefore we are really not at any disadvantage.

2. We don’t need the best cards to win if we are competing against ourselves.

3. Maybe winning is directly connected to accepting the fact that the cards in our hands are not as important because WE internally possess the rest of deck (meaning we are our greatest strength and our greatest resource)!

4. God is planning on bringing the necessary cards into our lives when the time is right.

Personally, I have concluded on 3 and 4. I trust that God created me just the way I am, that he is bringing the right things and people into my life at the right time FOR ME, and that I have everything inside me to win against myself. If I was indeed given a “bad hand,” life is more than likely waiting for me to dig down deep  inside my internal deck to find the winning card labeled faith, love, confidence, strength, perspective, resilience, hope, and happiness.

If you don’t like the cards you are dealt, start digging down deep inside yourself to find the cards you need. Most times, they are usually hidden behind hard work, insecurity, un-forgiveness, hurt, and impatience. When you finally find them, remember that you are only playing against yourself — your happiness, your success, your destiny.

What’s your theory about why we are “dealt different cards” in life? Do you even believe that?

10 Lessons I Have Learned in the Past Hectic Month

1. Praying for strength might mean I have to experience life puzzles that require me to exercise/expose my weakness in order to gain and maintain “strength.”

2. Be less afraid of standing my ground and fighting (figuratively).

3. Accept that opposition is inevitable and necessary; and then learn how to prepare to win.

4. Being healthy is more important than being Instagram “sexy” Although, being healthy usually makes me feel Instagram sexy and happy. So, win-win!

5. Yes, sometimes blessings come in small things, but other times they come hidden within challenging times and hard work.

6. Be more patient and have more faith, especially in times when the outcome is unknown.

7. Sometimes success cannot be achieved in anonymity.

8. Care less about what people think about me, and then care even less.

9. Count the moments instead of counting the years.

10. Life is not short, maybe we are just wasting time.

What are some life lessons you have recently learned? Share your nuggets of wisdom!