Tag Archives: stay strong beautiful

How Aziz Ansari has changed my life for the better and hopefully yours too.

This whole Aziz Ansari situation has opened up a door for me to say some things I have been holding in for years.  I didn’t necessarily want to, but the narrative has deafened all other thoughts while the words gathered and churned loudly in my mind.

To start, there are some people who will read this and learn about something deeply embedded inside of my soul and wonder why I didn’t tell them.  While I am not sorry for doing what I needed to do in order to find healing and protect myself, I am sorry if it upsets you to be reading this instead of hearing it directly from me.  I don’t want people to act differently around me. I’ve also held it in because I worry that speaking out will somehow negate my opinion on certain topics. It’s almost like I can hear some people’s thoughts, “Oh. That’s why she’s fighting for women’s rights. She hates men because of what happened to her.” Please hear me. I do not hate men.  I do hate how society is structured for situations like what happened with Aziz Ansari to be normalized. That’s what I want to change.

(Also, true feminism is not at the expense of men’s rights, in case we need to clarify that. If you want to chat more about feminism, let me know.)

Years ago, I was hanging out with a friend. Well, he was more than a friend. We were definitely interested in each other, so I had a conversation with him. I told him that I was a virgin and that I planned to keep it that way until I was married.  He assured me that it didn’t matter and that we could continue as we were. Later that week, as I lay on a bed unmoving, paralyzed by what I can only ascribe to as being shock, I stared at a lamp while he went back on his word and changed the course of my life in a mere 30 seconds. Afterwards, I cried and he held me tenderly. It was weird. As he was leaving, I made a joke about not being a virgin anymore and laughed (bitterly), because humour is my defence mechanism and what I resort to in awkward moments.  We spent a lot of time together in the weeks following. I was confused. I was hurt. I hadn’t said no in the moments leading up to what happened.  I hadn’t had a chance, it had progressed so quickly. But I also hadn’t expressed to him that I felt differently than I had in our previous conversation. The thoughts and questions were numerous and flooded my brain more quickly than I could process them.

I had been clear in our conversation about how I felt about sex, hadn’t I?

What had I done for him to interpret that I had magically and silently changed my mind?

I liked him. So, I must have wanted it, right?

Who takes someone’s virginity violently, aggressively and without checking in with them, without even asking if they were ready?

He’s a nice guy. He wouldn’t do that unless he liked me, so I’m probably just being sensitive because my plans for my life have changed.

It goes on and on.

So, I spent a lot more time with him. I tried to “redeem” the situation. Maybe we would date. Maybe I was so into him subconsciously that I really had wanted that to happen. Maybe it was his intense feelings for me that led to that situation. Every time I came to that conclusion, I immediately knew that it wasn’t true. Because men are more than just wild animals with no control over their actions. I felt anxious and trapped by the thought of being with this person, yet I couldn’t understand why I kept spending time with him. I felt like he owned me.  I felt cheap, dirty, and used- but I figured that was all I could get, now that I was a “slut”.

I also was determined to not let what had happened affect me or my life. I decided that I would take this secret with me to the grave. No one needed to know. Obviously, this doesn’t work.

As time went on, the right people came into my life at the right time. The healing process began. One night, I told a brand new friend what had happened in a weird moment of desperation and trust. That was the first moment I acknowledged what had happened and was even able to accept the word “rape” in my vocabulary.
Another new friend gave me a book, “Dear Sister“. I cannot fully express the freedom I experienced from reading words written by strangers that seemed to come from my own soul.

Sometimes it is easier to share your darkest moments with complete strangers. It won’t change their perception of you. You can walk away from having shared that secret and never have to talk about it again.

I could tell very easily from social media who would be supportive and who would not be. (It’s interesting what your Facebook comments say about you.) So I either built up walls to protect myself from hurtful words unknowingly directed at me as a victim, or cut out interactions with those people altogether.

Time went on. Later, I was hanging out with a different guy; another friend- someone I trusted- someone I liked.  I was trying to be honest and have a clear conversation, once again; this time about how sex was traumatic for me. After I had finished sharing what had happened to me, he tried to initiate sex with me multiple times. I had to tell him no more than once.  It triggered an anxiety attack, which seemed to surprise him immensely.

Right now, my impulse is to clarify that when someone shares their story of sexual abuse, they do not want to be comforted by sex with you. The fact that I even feel the need to clarify this weighs heavily on my spirit. Part of what is so upsetting about assault is the violation of trust.  The fact that someone’s desire for sex can supersede their ability to acknowledge another person’s pain and vulnerability is extremely distressing. In fact, I considered that experience to be a more profound and piercing violation than the first.

If you are in a position where someone has placed their trust in you, respect that, and listen to them. If you are not sure what they want from you, then ask them. Respect that they know what they need, and ask them to tell you. If you are too distracted by wanting to have sex with that person to listen to what they are saying, then it’s probably a good time to remove yourself from the situation.

Now, both of the men in these stories would be considered “nice guys”. They are well-known and well-liked. They are kind, funny, talented, and people enjoy being around them. I don’t think either of them meant to be inherently selfish or destructive in either of these situations, in the same way that Aziz says this wasn’t his intention.  However, lacking the intentionality to confirm comfort and reciprocation from both parties indicates that they are clearly products of a society that hasn’t been properly trained in the language and culture of consent.

Consent is not the absence of a “No”. Consent is the confident and eager articulation of  a “Yes”.

The reason I shared this post is because I think my stories are more relatable than I wish they were. I know that there are some of you who have experienced a moment that sounds similar to mine. I also think that there are some of you out there who are lucky enough to not have experienced something similar and therefore don’t believe it happens as much as it does.  Maybe my story will somehow show you the truth.

Needless to say, the Aziz Ansari situation shines a light on the problem: Consent should never be assumed, and is something that can never be negotiated or induced. I would venture so far as to say that the only assumption we should ever make about consent is that we do not have it until we definitely have it. How do we know that we definitely have it? Because someone says yes, and then says yes again, and then again. As adults having sex, I think it’s totally sexy to actually check in to A) See if your partner is still in it to win it and B) Actually enjoying whatever you’re doing together.

How to know if someone wants to have sex with you:
1) If you are attracted to someone and want to have sex with them, it should be assumed that they don’t want to have sex with you unless they explicitly say that they do.

2) If someone has told you that they don’t want to have sex, it should be assumed that they don’t want to have sex unless they explicitly say that they do.

source3) If someone has said no to your request  for oral sex, or anal sex, or any other kind of sex, you don’t have to repeat your request. They know that you want it, and you should assume that they still don’t want it unless they explicitly say that they do.

The other reason I’m sharing this is because sadly, I think that some people believe that girls are just “making stories up” to get guys into trouble.* For every girl who has the courage to come forward, there are sixteen** holding tightly and silently onto their truths and reading your comments. I don’t share this to incite anger towards perpetrators, because there’s obviously a bigger issue at play here. To say that every “perpetrator” is evil or intentionally harming people is not hitting the mark. We have to be dissatisfied with the rate in which these things are happening. (1 in 4 women, 1 in 4!) I actually care about creating a better, safer society for everyone.

One of my amazing friends summed this up on her social media recently,

“I care about this person thinking consent is “blurry” when it is absolutely clear that anything short of “hell yes!” is no. I care about this person caring more about having sex than asking if their partner wants to have sex, and “risking” them saying no. Because why the hell else wouldn’t you ask? Would you not want to know, for sure, that the person you want to have sex with is actually into having sex with you? I care about this person thinking that “no” means “keep trying” or “convince me.” Because it absolutely doesn’t. I care about this person thinking that because the victim flirted, she consented to something other than more flirting. Or that because she didn’t leave, she consented. She didn’t. I care about this person hearing you questioning the victim and, in their next sexual interaction, thinking “who knows what she wants! She should be more clear,” instead of “who knows what she wants! I should probably ASK HER and make it clear that i’m Ok with whatever answer.” And then actually being ok with the answer.”

So, while this post is partially about me finally being able to relay part of the narrative that has been missing from my story over the past few years, I desperately hope that it’s more about initiating change. Let’s shift our views about sex and consent.

 

To my dear ones out there who are listening to the deafening sound of your heartbeat racing to match mine because my story sounds too familiar:  You are not alone. It’s not your fault. You ARE worthy of love and greatness. You are NOT defined by your pain or by your anger. How you feel is valid and you do not have to convince me about your truth. I believe you. And #metoo.
There is purpose in the pain, join me in the journey.

 

On average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence
*Only 2 – 4% of all sexual assaults reported are false reports
**Of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only 6 are reported to the police
1 – 2% of “date rape” sexual assaults are reported to the police
**1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime
11% of women have physical injury resulting from sexual assault
https://www.sexassault.ca/statistics.htm
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3 Things That are NEVER Funny

I consider myself to be a person with a hefty humour, and I like a good sarcastic joke. But something that I have been reflecting on as of late is the misogynistic jokes that have found their way into my relationships with guys, and I let them slide because I didn’t want to be “That girl.” You know that girl, the one who is a little too intense about women’s issues, the girl who takes every opportunity to share her opinions about women’s rights.. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.  But if I don’t take the time to speak these truths, then I am doing a discredit to the fiery passion for human dignity and empowerment that is written on my soul.

Here are three recurring jokes that I can pinpoint throughout different times in my life that are NEVER acceptable, EVER.

1.Violence

I have actually had guys jokingly threaten me when not happy with something I am doing or saying. “I will punch you in the face,” “I will kick you,” “I want to choke you right now.” I am not kidding. At the time, I would just jokingly return in kind, saying that I would hit them back or kick them in the balls. Now that I reflect back, I am horrified that I ever spent time with these people. It is NEVER funny to joke in this way. A guy who is genuinely concerned about your safety and cherishes you wouldn’t find this funny or acceptable in any situation.

2. Numbers

Believe it or not, I actually had a guy give me a score on my “Wife-Abilities.” There were categories such as Cooking, Appearance and Mothering… The list goes on. I kid you not. I know what you are thinking, “Where in the world do you find these guys, Ehjae?” You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. I cannot express the damage that was done to my soul in this experience. While it is the most extreme case that I’ve experienced, sadly it is not the only one. I have heard guys describe women as numbers in different categories more times than I care to repeat. “Her face is a 4, but her cannons are a 10”
Women struggle with perfection and comparison on our own. We always feel like we fall short of the standard, and are gloriously reminded that this is the case with the barrage of media reminding us to stay fit, but not too fit; to be nice, but not too nice; to be successful, but not too successful; and to be the perfect mother/wife. If a guy ever, EVER removes your dignity by describing you OR ANYONE ELSE by a number, walk away. No, RUN away. It will never change, and you will forever feel like a prisoner trying to be freed from the prison of “Not Enough.”

3.“WOMAN”

Have you ever been called, “Woman” by someone? It’s always said in a mocking voice, “Woman, make me a sandwich; Woman, bring me a beer.”

 MY NAME IS EHJAE.

Calling me “Woman” tells me that this is all that you see. You see my breasts, and the opportunity for conquest between my legs. I can hear some of you protesting- that’s not the case. So what is the case? What is the pressing need for you to diminish our worth? The sake of a joke? I can tell you that no one is laughing. And further more, why would calling me “Woman” somehow grant you power, as if to say that a woman is weaker and must submit to your request?

The verdict is out, and the joke is on you, misogynistic men. Women are strong. We are courageous, and we are not going to be treated like this. “It was a joke.” is NOT a reasonable explanation to ever do any of the above. Having let people speak to me, and treat me in this way for much too long, I hope that it will take some of the beautiful women out there less than a quarter century to stop enabling these destructive language and patterns. It starts with us, ladies.  We must stop joking back, and start walking away.

Moment

Life is full of moments.

Moments that stand still

Moments that fly by, where you soar high

Moments when you can’t see and you can’t breathe

and you begin to wonder if you’ve ceased to be

       Anything

Worth loving

——-

NO

——–

We

need

to see

that this is not who we’re meant to be

That life is full of these moments

So that we know what it means to be free

A new year doesn’t mean no tears

Happy New Year.

I wish I could sit here and fill your hearts with inspiration, but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.  I spent the New Year surrounded by people, yet feeling completely alone. In truth, I’m writing this post half out of desperation to escape the tears I’ve been crying in the darkness of my house, and partially to reach out to those of you who are in the same place as me.  You are not alone.

2014 has been a year full of milestones for me.  My business has been flourishing, doors have opened, and I’ve had recognition in ways I could never have imagined. The opportunities are endless.  However, the past year has also been full of heartache, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

There have been days when the darkness suffocated me, and I hid my tears and anxiety under the covers of my bed.  I know people don’t understand because I can be laughing and having fun, but they don’t see the emptiness I can be feeling in the midst of my laughter.   While it’s true that I’m having fun in those moments, nothing can fill the skeleton that has overtaken my soul.

While Jesus remains the hope I cling to, somedays it just doesn’t feel like He is enough. My one saving grace has been expressing these emotions through my art and poetry.  I’ve also begun to speak to someone who has professional insight into the biology behind the darkness I live within. I highly recommend it.

While everyone else has been excitedly writing new resolutions and plans for their futures, I’m barely holding on while the thoughts are crashing in: another year may bring many more sleepless nights and this overwhelming sense of despair will come back to steal more of my joy.

My New Years resolution is nothing new at all. If anything it is a revolution against painted smiles and being shamed into silence.  I desire to be transparent with my emotions, find strength in my weaknesses, to speak truth into darkness and shed light onto desperately lonely places. So this is to my dear ones who have stumbled upon this blog, desperate to know they are not alone in this world, seeking a place to be heard:

You are not alone in your sadness.  You are not alone in your despair.  The darkness will NOT overcome you. Stay strong, beautiful ones. You are stronger than you know.

love ehjae

 

 

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-signs-and-symptoms.htm

http://depressionhurts.ca/

http://www.cmha.ca/mental-health/understanding-mental-illness/depression/

http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/depression/Pages/default.aspx

One step at a time

I’ve discovered a peace in my life lately that has settled into my soul.

Unshakeable, unbreakable, yet fragile and vulnerable. That’s how I feel.

I can look back on my life and see moment after moment of brokenness, but moment after moment after moment of the light breaking into that dark brokenness. I want to be real. I want to be genuine. I want people to know that they are loved; That I love them; That the love that pours out of me is an outpouring of the love I’ve been given.

How much do I share from my heart? How much of my soul do I bare? Somedays, the darkness is unbearable and all I can do is cry out one single word. “Jesus!” He just knows. I know that some of you who may read this don’t share my beliefs. I don’t care, because I’ll love you just the same. But if I could only express the comfort in knowing in those dark, dark moments that He knows and loves me despite my shortcomings.. Oh.. if I could only share that with the world.

Renovations on a dungeon.

Down in the dumps.
Feeling blue.
Not quite myself.

One of my favourite characters puts it quite eloquently as being in the “depths of despair.” (Thanks Anne Shirley)

One of the things that has always frustrated me in my life are those moments when the darkness creeps in.

The joy that I so easily embraced suddenly becomes contaminated by that tar-like void that seems to contaminate and seep so quickly that suddenly I am suffocating in a quicksand pit of despair, loneliness and depression.

“Why?”  I always ask myself.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.  Yet, sometimes I do, but I don’t know know how to change my behaviour.  Instead, I allow the lies and shame to seep in further and isolate myself from people who love me, who can and want to pull me out of the pit.

A couple of dear friends have been challenging me by being transparent and sharing about their struggles.  How often do I admit out loud that I don’t know the answers, that I am struggling to even think about picking up my Bible, and *gasp*, sometimes I just don’t want to go to church. Yet at the back of my mind, that truthful voice is telling me that this has been where I discovered my joy, love, freedom, family, salvation, hope, truth, grace and forgiveness for even the darkest, most shameful, disgraceful moments in my life.

I’ve been challenged and humbled by my own words.  I’ve often said that we are weakest and most vulnerable when we are isolated from each other. We were made for community, to grow together, to love together and even to be weak together, which actually makes us stronger. Yet, in the past couple of weeks, a true hypocrite, I have been isolating myself and avoiding the people that I need the most.

More of my hypocrisy: It would be so easy for me to spend an hour looking and thinking up words of wisdom and thinking of spiritual ways to guide and help my fellow-downers through this journey. I would come up with an eloquent way to express how I had entered into and then defeated the darkness that I had supposedly now conquered.
I haven’t conquered it.  I won’t.  Not on my own. I’m not the one who will defeat it.  Scratch that.. I’m not the one who HAS defeated it.

This post is not about my great thoughts or revelations on the Bible. This is about my weaknesses and being transparent.

I am still struggling.

So once again, challenged and humbled, I am writing to expose the darkness that has been overwhelming me and to ask for help.  I can’t do it on my own.  I’ve been trying to do it that way for a long time.  But it’s so clear that that’s not the way to do it.

Yet, in the midst of this pit of despair, there has been a peep hole of piercing light.  It never fades, and the warmth that emanates from it is almost delightfully painful in comparison to the emotionless, cold, dark corner of the dungeon that I have chosen for myself.

God has never left my side, and I know that he is the reason for my hope and the peace that has never left my heart amidst all of the craziness that has happened in my entire life.

The beautiful thing is the simplicity of this truth and revelation that first broke through the wall around my heart( and it continues to do so every day) :

It is the moments like these, when we are shamed, naked, starving and covered in our own filth, that Jesus says, “Yes, I love you. I choose you.”

And that is how my God turns my dungeon into a palace.