Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shake It Out

I've never done this before, so bear with me. I'm trying to post a video onto my page and until I hit "publish post" I'm not even sure it's gonna show up. So... here's to taking risks! (If it doesn't embed, you can find the music video here.)

I first heard "Shake it Out," the single off Florence + the Machine's second album (which will be released on November 1st, Dios de los Muertos, fittingly enough) a few weeks ago and I sat back and thought, this is going to be my theme song for October.

And it still is.

"Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play."

It's true that I regret very little in my life, the choices I make and have made. Part of what is wonderful about being a "present-focused" person is that I live in the immediate here and now. Of course, this does provide an astonishing lack of perspective occasionally, but most of the time, I am happy because I am not wishing for the future or longing for the past. Things settle on my skin and the tip of my tongue and I stay with them, allowing sensations and memories to melt and breathing it all in. But October is always a month to look back, to dig up the dead, even for me. I find myself looking at the past, not with regret, but certainly not without sadness. October, of all the months, is the month in which we grieve, and stand in front of death and birth, and feel the changes that are happening in our lives the most.

I've spent the last month and a half surrounded by tasks, tasks that required me to be fully present and 100% on my game, even as there were things swirling around me at all times. The last forty days required absolute focus and left me with very little room for error. As soon as I got back from Yosemite, I spent 11 days on set, from 6 pm to 6 am, and since this project was strictly a labor of love, I would then drive to my job at 6 am and work an 6 hour shift before returning to set.

In the middle of the shoot, I planned a lecture for my church that required me to organize reaching out to the community, advertise to other churches in the area, plan to feed everyone who attended, pick up the speaker at the airport, and do generally everything else that goes along with planning a huge speaking event. And it went fabulously, without a hitch.

Towards the end of the shoot, I was also blessed to officiate Lira's wedding. You can check out pictures here (I'm in a couple) and I have to say: the wedding was beautiful. Even running off the tiny amount of sleep I was going off of, I was able to officiate quite well, marry Lira and her boy Anthony correctly, and then designate myself Wedding Coordinator for the rest of the day, making sure Lira and Anthony actually got to eat, sit down, and enjoy their own wedding.

As soon as I was done with the still-under-wraps mysterious horror project that I will plug as soon as I can, I went straight into pre-production for season two of Hell Froze Over, the web-series I was in in 2009, and started shooting ANOTHER web-series, Living with Frankenstein, a supernatural British comedy where I play Mary Shelley, who, along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley (and Frankenstein's monster) is living in modern day Los Angeles. :)

"And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn."

And it's true that I like to keep some things private. It's always tough with a blog to balance what belongs in the public and what belongs in the privacy of our own hearts. When I am having a tough time, my friends and family are not always the first to know. But I am learning to put into words the feelings I feel when I'm not quite sure how to react or deal with the things that upset me. And I honestly think I'm getting better.

"And I've been a fool and I've been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I'm always dragging that horse around."

What October teaches me, more than anything, is that it is not letting go of the past that is the most important. It is coming to peace with the fact that the past will never be let go of. I grieve but I also sit in the grief, carry it like a blanket, and it keeps me company and the less I try to shoo it off my porch and the more I just let it keep me company... the quieter the past becomes in my head.

"And our love is pastured such a mournful sound
Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues strong
But it's always darkest before the dawn.

"Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh"

So I shake it out. I shake the grief, the tension, the sleeplessness, the stress, the frenetic frenzied energy, I shake all of it out my body and I keep on doing what I've always done. Which is put one foot in front of the other.

"And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh woah

I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart
Cause I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn."

I am done picking fights (did you SEE my last post?), done with my own graceless heart that cuts impatiently across conversations and memories and full-bloodied emotions, done being tired and less than understanding towards what others are going through, done being less than sympathetic and done being a full-blown workaholic who puts her best friend's wedding on her to-do list instead of her to-celebrate list.

Because it's hard to dance with a devil on your back, and October has more devils than most months. But man, you gotta just shake that crap out and restart. Because October has a lot of endings, for sure. But it also has beginnings, too.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rape is not a metaphor.

I did NOT want to write this post.

I tried my damndest not to. But it kept boiling inside me, all the things I needed to say, and if that's not what a blog is for, then I don't know what is.

I would love to be filling you guys in on the new web-series I've been working on, or how the horror movie I've been shooting was 11 days of fun and blood and screaming and sleep deprivation, or how Lira's wedding (which I officiated) went.

But first, I have to get this off my chest.

A blogger that I absolutely adore and respect to the highest degree (whom I STILL adore and respect to the highest degree, but I absolutely disagree with on this point) blogged about the Johnny Depp Incident. Basically, Johnny Depp, in an interview with this month's Vanity Fair, compared the act of sitting through a photo shoot to being raped. His words were: "Well, you just feel like you’re being raped somehow. Raped.... It feels like a kind of weird –- just weird."

And this blogger said there was no need to apologize (which the lovely Johnny Depp did, after being called out about it by RAINN) and that we had become too hypersensitive in this day and age about the meaning of words. Commenters agreed with her, saying that many, many things can be raped, including Mother Earth, celebrities by the media, etc.

So this is what I wrote:

"I'm going to have to disagree and say that I'm pleased that he apologized. Part of what is now Rape Culture is using the word "raped" to mean things that do NOT mean raped. When Johnny (whom I adore to the highest degree) said that he felt raped by a photo shoot, he did not ACTUALLY mean that he physically had someone shove a body part into an orifice of his while he repeatedly said NO and that he will have to deal with the guilt and shame regarding what he was wearing and how he was acting for the rest of his life. He will not have to deal with society judging him, labeling him a slut, telling him he "asked for it" and to just move on. He will not have to take a pregnancy test and wonder if he might be carrying the baby of the person who violated him, he will not have flashbacks of being raped while he's trying to be intimate with his wife, he will not find himself afraid of the dark or back alleys or wonder "What if" for the rest of his life. He will not spend a large amount of time (perhaps the rest of his life) being ashamed and afraid of his own sexuality.

He will not do any of this because he was not raped, yet he used the word raped. I don't think it's Political Correctness, and I don't think sexual abuse survivors have "hijacked a word." I think they know all too well that rape is serious and horrific and loaded and comes with a slew of baggage put upon it by society, and it is Rape Culture that says that is acceptable to use that word casually and throw it around and take the seriousness away from it. Rape Culture is making it casual and funny and when people STOP wincing at that word, then fuck it, we have a much bigger problem on our hands.

Thanks for listening."

And I thought that was that, and I moved on with my day. Except for the fact that I didn't move on. I couldn't. I got more and more frustrated the more I thought about it. Because I don't think the word "raped" should be used as a metaphor, much like I don't think the word "retarded" or "gay" should either. The definition of rape is not "whenever I feel particularly violated." It is an act of sexual assault, and if you take the sex out of rape then you are watering it down to a PC Diet Coke version of something very real, very tangible, and very traumatizing that happens to a lot of people. The very definition of rape includes sex; the word "violate" does not.

A few years back my car was broken into. Did I feel violated? Sure. Did I go around telling people I was raped? No, I did not. Violated is not the same as raped.

But people are now raped all the time. They are raped by Netflix raising its prices, raped at gas stations due to raising prices, raped at copy centers due to raising prices.. come to think of it, I don't hear people use the word "rape" as a metaphor NOT related to money very often. How do you think that makes actual rape victims feel? Do you think if someone came to you and tearfully told you that they were raped, that you'd nod and say, I was raped last week too when I was asked to pay more than I thought I should for a goods or service! We have so much to talk about now!

No. You wouldn't do that.

Celebrities are also raped, sometimes for hours on end... on red carpets, at photo shoots. In interviews. So let's imagine that scenario, shall we? Imagine a loved one calls you up. You ask how they are. Not so good, they say. I was just raped. Oh my God, you exclaim, what happened? Your loved one goes on to explain that he or she willingly showed up to a job, where he or she proceeded to work at this job for several hours, didn't express any feelings of uncomfortableness or reservations about this job while the work was being done, was paid for this job, and afterward felt taken advantage of in some way. Now, I'm not undermining this experience. To feel taken advantage of, even when you are getting paid, and you showed up willingly, and you expressed your feelings to no one (because if you had, people would have rushed to rectify this) is not a fun one. But it is not the same thing as being raped.

You cannot have rape without sex, my friends. You CAN.NOT. If you have rape without sex then you are taking the very loaded, complicated, horrific aspect of this crime and putting glitter on it. The Mother Earth can be violated, trashed, taken advantage of, used, spat upon, and neglected. But until someone finds a way to sexually assault an entire planet, no, it was not raped.

There are millions upon millions of people out there who have suffered sexual violence. Some are women who have been forced to marry their rapists to protect their honor, and so they continue to be raped. Some women were raped on dates, some men and women are raped by their partners, some men and women who are raped while passed out at parties. Rape is humiliating, and shaming, and is rarely punishable or provable in court (leading to the statistic that only 1 in 20 rapists will ever see a day behind bars, and that a rapist, assuming correctly that he will not be prosecuted, rapes an average of 6 times in his life time. Yes, even date rapists.)

Rape is a struggle for one person to exert power over another. Rape is something that happens to everyone, of all races, incomes, religions, and cultures. Rape seeks to silence people by creating a bubble of shame around it. Society encourages this by saying "she's asking for it" and putting the sexual history of rape victims on trial when the very rare incident of a rape going to court actually DOES happen.

Rape is many, many things. But rape is not a metaphor. And it should not be used as one.
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