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15 Days of Vulnerable: Horcruxes

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We dated for three years and we brought out the worst in each other.

I cheated on him. More than once. One day, in fact, I hooked up with an old flame, Brent. He was my first love, a beautiful man. Charming, funny, and quite possibly a sociopath. We shared this remarkable day in bed and on the beach. That night, he introduced me to a woman he called “that friend who is always moody.” She turned out to be his pregnant fiancé.

It was like looking in a dirty mirror.

But it got my attention. That was the moment I stopped cheating on my live-in boyfriend. I crawled home and told him everything I’d done. In return, he shared his own indiscretions. Honestly, they were borderline scary. But I had no room to judge.

I knew I didn’t love him. But, I thought I’d made my bed. I thought Jesus was against divorce. Never-mind that we were not technically married. Never-mind that I did not listen anything else Jesus said. I had to figure out how to make this work.

So, we started couples counseling. We got engaged! One day, in between dishing the details of my wedding ceremony, I confided with my counselor, “He says he wants to be a Christian, but some of the stuff he does, it . . . makes me uncomfortable.”

“Are you sure, Brandy?” She asked gently, “That you want to marry him?”

“What?” I was stunned. I sat there, staring at her for a long time. Finally, I found my words, “No. I didn’t realize I had a choice.”

I moved back in with my parents the next week. If my respectable, inspiring counselor believed I could leave him, that was good enough for me. My life was a hot mess, but it didn’t matter. I was free.

Eight Years Later

He walked into the court room and suddenly I thought I might throw up. I wanted him not to see us. I felt sorry for him. To find out we knew this way. As if it were some big conspiracy. But it wasn’t. I just needed to hear the truth.

He left almost as soon as he arrived and I was afraid he was gone for good. My sister asked me if I wanted her to go talk to him and I knew what I had to do. I gathered as much courage as I had inside myself, I turned the recorder on in my phone, slipped it back into my purse, and walked, shaking, out of the court room. He was on a bench. And when I saw him, I couldn’t help break into a nervous smile. Our history flooded back to my heart and mind. For a second I wished it hadn’t ended up quite the way it did.

“If you are here to use this against me—”

“What? No. I just want some answers.”

I sat down beside him and he told me he’d been framed. She was crazy. She should be institutionalized. And he sounded so sincere. I wanted to believe him.

I knew our time together was unhealthy, but it wasn’t until after our talk on the bench that day I realized the extent of the damage he’d done. To me, all those years ago. I knew he was hurtful. But I always said we brought out the worst in each other. And that I’d made so many mistakes that hurt him. In all honesty, I had. But we’ve been apart for nine years, and last month was the first time I took myself out of the fault equation long enough to realize the truth. That I had been in a sexually abusive relationship for three years.

I hope to God he didn’t hurt the girl that accused him. But I can no longer deny what he did to me.

“Now I knew why sex was the biggest hurdle in our marriage. I knew why I felt dizzy and anxious whenever the mood shifted as we headed to bed. And I hated it. I hated this story I knew was my own because how could I be the wife I knew I needed to be – the wife I was taught about in high school and college – if I couldn’t offer my husband what he needed without falling into a frenzy of triggers?” +Elora Nicole

I didn’t breathe reading Elora’s post. I had wanted to find relief, to begin to understand why sex inside my marriage today, with my attractive, sweet, and funny husband, was so difficult to wrap my brain around. But the anger I felt was toward myself. I was the one who’d messed up. I was the one who’d gone astray. So many one night stands from my past. So many pieces of my soul given away so flippantly. I was Voldemort. And this was my punishment.

How do you not know it’s abuse? A while back, I explained why I think feminism matters. These rules and walls and ways of being we’ve constructed, that tell us that it can’t be rape if you’re in a relationship, among other things. They keep us broken and silent and hurting.

I am so good at blaming myself. I’ve made an art of it. But I’m learning that some masterpieces are meant to be thrown in the trash.

For the first time in a very long time, I have hope. I believe I can begin to heal from the trauma of my past because I have new eyes to look at it. It makes me uncomfortable to make light of my past indiscretions. But when my ex and I broke up, I felt inexplicably free. I didn’t know it at the time, but I think I was trying to figure out what it meant to enjoy sex. The horcruxes I created made it worse, yes. But that doesn’t mean I have to carry all the blame. It doesn’t mean God is punishing me.

merawHi! I’m Brandy. I run this joint, and I’m so glad you’re here! I write in this space regularly, sharing resources, love, and challenges for dreamers and creative healers. I’m aiming to hit that sweet spot between doing work you love, making the world a better place, and taking care of yourself in the process.

Welcome to Day Five of #15DaysofVulnerable! If this post touched you and you find yourself wanting a safe space to really explore vulnerability and authenticity, please check out Be 2015. We have seven amazing teachers lined up to co-teach with me. It’s going to be an incredible journey.

And if you really dig my style and my message, then you might want to consider signing up for my newsletter, Voice Lessons. Nearly every week, I write a love letter to all the people on that list, sharing stuff I don’t share with the world. I’ve even been known to give away entire e-courses for free.

All the love, friend. Thank you for stopping by! I hope this post filled your day with a little extra awesome. Take good care.

15 Days of Vulnerable: Our Grinding Year

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I’m sick. I have to work tonight at 4pm and I’m praying like hell that my teenager makes good time getting off the bus and up into the apartment so that I can get on the road with 40 minutes to spare because it takes 40 minutes to get there. But at least right now, I don’t have to pay for childcare.

It’s surreal, waiting tables again. It’s been almost seven years. But I chose it. I chose to go back. This is our grinding year. That’s what Jermaine calls it. This is the year we do the hard work to make those dreams we have realities. So far so good. My Word of the Year is Grit, so it fits. Because I’ve gotten too comfortable being comfortable. And I feel like I’m spinning my wheels and honestly I probably am. I probably have been. But no more. We’re doing this.

Except I’m sick. In past jobs, I always had a bad habit of calling out. Too too much. Back then, one of my lamer tendencies was to look for the easy way out. Not working was easier than working. But I’ve spent four years being my own boss and now I’ll go a few weeks without taking a true day off. Because as a boss, I’m kind of a jerk to myself. And the crappy thing is that working all the time doesn’t work. That’s why I’m spinning my wheels. Because at some point, the creativity dries up and refuses to give you more juice until you stop.

That’s why the theme for Be last year was Rest. Deep, true sabbath rest. And that’s why it’s not this year. Because this is our grinding year. And with this new job, I have to rest from the writing at least three days a week and put all my energy into serving other people. Being on the job when I’m working is requirement for keeping my job. Which is so good for me. For many many reasons.

But I’m sick. I want to call out today. I want to rest and play Mario 3D World with my son. I want to stay in my pajamas and under the blankets. I want to write and dream and work on promoting Be. Because quite honestly, I’ve not gotten the numbers I’d hoped to have by the end of the first week and I know part of it is because I haven’t had time to share it.

I can’t do it, though. I can’t call in sick. Not today. I have to go to work. I have to spend six+ hours focusing on others and learning my job well. Because Grit and grinding is really all about trust. Putting in the time. Feeling it out, even when it’s uncomfortable. Even when I feel shy, meeting all my new co-workers. Knowing I won’t have this blasted cold forever. And I CAN do this.

Because it’s not because I’m sick. It’s because I’m scared. That I’ll mess up. That I’ll give someone food with a hair in it. That someone will make me cry. Too many times. That’s what happened in the past. I’m an empath. I feel others emotions as if they were my own. Especially anger or sadness. Especially when I’m close to you physically or emotionally. It’s the kind of vulnerable that can feel like a superpower one minute and a plague the next. I didn’t know it back then. I would just start bawling. Again and again. And it was embarrassing. I didn’t figure it out until I holed up essentially by myself and my family and few select friends now and then. That’s when I realized I’m not actually that emotional. But get me around a group. Holy shit.

So it’s good. And it’s terrifying. Knowing what others are feeling, I often know just what to say. And I have a hunch that this ability is going to make me a really kick ass waitress. And for the first time in my life, the company I work for has values that line up perfectly with mine. They use solar and wind power. They recycle, maybe to a fault. They serve grass-fed, free range, organic meat and a crapload of vegetarian and vegan options. They care about their people—both employees and customers. They host open mics and start conversations about race and gender and equality and politics.

So, I’m sick. But I’m going in. And I’m exhausted. I’m going keep pushing. I’m not going to pretend I feel amazing. I’m going to revel in the power of authentic vulnerability. And I’m going to trust that enough people need that. I know they do, I can bloody feel their emotions. I’ll trust that even if they’re terrified, if they’re feeling the pull, they’ll join us for Be. Or, if they can’t, they’ll show up brave and vulnerable in their lives right now. And get comfortable being uncomfortable. Because that’s where the magic is. That’s where full life really begins.

merawHi! I’m Brandy. I run this joint, and I’m so glad you’re here! I write in this space regularly, sharing resources, love, and challenges for dreamers and creative healers. I’m aiming to hit that sweet spot between doing work you love, making the world a better place, and taking care of yourself in the process.

Welcome to Day Four of #15DaysofVulnerable! If this post touched you and you find yourself wanting a safe space to really explore vulnerability and authenticity, please check out Be 2015. We have seven amazing teachers lined up to co-teach with me. It’s going to be an incredible journey.

And if you really dig my style and my message, then you might want to consider signing up for my newsletter, Voice Lessons. Nearly every week, I write a love letter to all the people on that list, sharing stuff I don’t share with the world. I’ve even been known to give away entire e-courses for free.

All the love, friend. Thank you for stopping by! I hope this post filled your day with a little extra awesome. Take good care.

15 Days of Vulnerable: Laboured

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This is Day Three of #15DaysofVulnerable—a series to celebrate Be 2015 and its theme of Authentic Vulnerability. It’s a vintage post from August 2011. And it’s about as vulnerable as it gets.

Sometimes, I’m just so afraid he’s going to die.

I started having contractions on Sunday around 3pm. They seemed a bit more intense than the Braxton Hicks I’d experienced before and they just wouldn’t stop. I’m 34 weeks pregnant and not at all ready to give birth. Plus, his lungs may still need a couple more weeks to finish developing.

Last week was a whirlwind. We launched projects that had been in the works for weeks. Jermaine designed his head off. I stayed up waay past my bedtime. I fretted and wrote and waddled all around. Exhilarating, yes. But not ideal when you’re incubating a fetus.

Brooklyn Babylon was one of the first movies Jermaine and I watched together. A Romeo and Juliet type tale about a thoughtful rapper who falls in love with a Jewish girl. More movies should be like that one.

Our cousin Corey passed away a couple of months ago. Brilliant writer. Sensitive genius. We miss him madly.

Brooklyn Corey, I can’t imagine a better namesake. It means “to a broken land, God’s peace”; we found out after we chose it. Serendipitous, considering his mom’s a digital pastor and his dad, a pacifistic soldier.

I didn’t go into labour on Sunday. My midwife came over, checked my cervix and happily informed me that I’m “long, thick and closed”. Take from that what you will.

Stress, she said. I effectually caused these premature contractions. Some of the stress I can’t control. Some of it is my own doing. But honestly, talk about a reason to practice being gentle with myself! Sigh. Zero to scary in less than a day.

We’ve decided to have a homebirth. That means I’m going to labour in my living room. Or my bed. I haven’t decided yet. I’m working on my birth plan this week.

I’m nervous. In some ways, I think it’d be easier to give birth in a hospital. I’ve researched. Studied. Prayed. Read. And asked advice from the sages. I know it’s the right thing for Brooklyn and me. Jermaine is 100% on board. It’s the healthiest thing we can do. But still, it’s scary. So much to think about.

I started Flying Lessons with Kelly Rae Roberts this week. In our class today, she talked about fear. She meant toward our creative business, but I think it applies. Giving birth is one of the most creative things I’ll ever do.

My midwife and doula friends heavily suggest turning my fears into positive affirmations. Kelly Rae mentioned it, too. And sitting with your fears, talking to them. This makes me think of Andrea Schroeder, that magical dream sparkler. She’s really good at conversing with her monsters.

I don’t have a history of stillbirth or miscarriage, but I fear it just the same. My business doesn’t scare me half as much as this baby stuff. There isn’t as much on the line. I could put my heart and soul into brandyglows (and I am) – if it fails, I’ll be sad, but I’ll move on. I can do that.

Losing a child, I don’t know if I’m strong enough. But if it happens, I’ll have to be. Because the only alternative is to get stuck in the mourning. I’ve witnessed that. It’s hell on earth.

My fears are irrational. They come from another fear – that God will punish me for those awful mistakes I made in my past.

The God I follow doesn’t punish your children for your sins. But along the way I learned that God gets angry like that. Sometimes lies seem truer than reality.

These days, I’m resting more, practicing kegels, deep breathing and gratitude, surrounding myself with calm people. When my fears crackle pop, I talk to them. I talk to God. I talk to Sadie and Jermaine. I talk to Brooklyn.

In our childbirth class yesterday, we picked words. What kind of birth do we want to have? I chose empowerment. I am strong.

merawHi! I’m Brandy. I run this joint, and I’m so glad you’re here! I write in this space regularly, sharing resources, love, and challenges for dreamers and creative healers. I’m aiming to hit that sweet spot between doing work you love, making the world a better place, and taking care of yourself in the process.

If this post touched you and you find yourself wanting a safe space to really explore vulnerability and authenticity, please check out Be 2015. We have seven amazing teachers lined up to co-teach with me. It’s going to be an incredible journey.

And if you really dig my style and my message, then you might want to consider signing up for my newsletter, Voice Lessons. Nearly every week, I write a love letter to all the people on that list, sharing stuff I don’t share with the world. I’ve even been known to give away entire e-courses for free.

All the love, friend. Thank you for stopping by! I hope this post filled your day with a little extra awesome. Take good care.

15 Days of Vulnerable: The Rhythm is Going to Get You

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The picture above is the second moving day, in December 2013. Apparently Mother Nature did not want us to leave Maryland (especially because five months later, in 2014, she brought the whole family back)!

This is Day Two of #15DaysofVulnerable—a series to celebrate Be 2015 and its theme of Authentic Vulnerability. This is Day Twenty-Nine in FML Pocket (a DIY e-course on food, money, and loving (your life)). It’s the part where I admit that I’m crazy. 

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances. ” +Maya Angelou

My word for 2013 was Rhythm. I didn’t want it to be. My husband is a seriously gifted musician and over the years I’ve become insecure about my lack of musicality. I don’t play an instrument; I’ve never had the patience. I can’t sing. I like pop music. I’ll listen to whatever is on the radio. I will always prefer a song I’ve heard to a new one. But rhythm chose me. It wouldn’t let me go.

I was named after two songs. “Brandy” by Looking Glass and “Michelle” by The Beatles. I married into a highly harmonious family. I once wrote a rap and performed it at a mega-church in NC and after the service, Anthony Hamilton’s manager stopped me to ask if I would be interested in recording a demo.

I’d spent most of my adult life running from rhythm. But I knew it was time. In January 2013, I let the Rhythm catch me.

That year, my husband deployed to the other side of the world. Two weeks before he left, I realized I could move back to Maryland while he was gone. I could go back to school. I could rejoin our home church. The kids and I would be surrounded with our close friends and loved ones.

All the sensible people in our life advised us against it. Some of the more traditional Army folks told Jermaine he shouldn’t let me go. We both knew it was crazy. Because it was. It was CRAZY.

I didn’t know how hard the actual moving process (both to MD and then back to NC in the span of what ended up being five months) would be. If I’d known, I never would have done it. Because it was CRAZY.

But I’m glad I didn’t know. I’m glad I jumped in with both feet. I’m glad I fell down and had to ask those friends and loved ones I’d wanted to surround myself with to help me stand back up again.

I rang in 2014 completely spent. Exhausted: emotionally, physically, financially. But I knew I’d found my Rhythm.

It was wild and CRAZY and it was mine. It was Spirit and Soul and so full of hope and beauty and second chances. It was messy and hard and bloody beautiful.

I’m convinced that if it hadn’t been for the insanity that was 2013, I never would have created FML.

FML is crazy. It’s a mix of the fascinating research I’ve done and (or because of) all the funny and not so funny mistakes I’ve made. It’s those undeniable connections between our self-worth and the way we act around food and money. It’s mostly catching our own sweet rhythm and letting it lead us where we need to go.

Even if no one else can hear the song.

merawHi! I’m Brandy. I run this joint, and I’m so glad you’re here! I write in this space regularly, sharing resources, love, and challenges for dreamers and creative healers. I’m aiming to hit that sweet spot between doing work you love, making the world a better place, and taking care of yourself in the process.

If this post touched you and you find yourself wanting a safe space to really explore vulnerability and authenticity, please check out Be 2015. We have seven amazing teachers lined up to co-teach with me. It’s going to be an incredible journey.

And if you really dig my style and my message, then you might want to consider signing up for my newsletter, Voice Lessons. Nearly every week, I write a love letter to all the people on that list, sharing stuff I don’t share with the world. I’ve even been known to give away entire e-courses for free.

All the love, friend. Thank you for stopping by! I hope this post filled your day with a little extra awesome. Take good care.

15 Days of Vulnerable: How I Became a Feminist

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To celebrate the upcoming round of Be (an e-course through the Christian season of Lent) and its unique theme this time around, I’m hosting a series on my blog called 15 Days of Vulnerable. For the next three weeks, every weekday (ending, funnily, on Friday the 13th), I’ll share my most authentically vulnerable posts—new and old—and host some guest posters willing to share their vulnerable words (either anonymously or with their byline). If you’d like to participate, there are a couple of ways you can do that! First, if you have your own blog, you’re welcome share your own posts on vulnerability on your space, linking back to this post and using the hashtag #15DaysofVulnerable when you share on social media. OR, if you have something you’d like to share, but aren’t comfortable sharing it on your site just yet, message me and we’ll see what we can do about having you as a guest poster on Brandyglows (if you choose that option, contact me as soon as possible, so I can make room for you).

I’m excited about this series and where we’ll go in #be2015. The strength to be vulnerable is wildly underrated.

I wrote the post below last week, originally in conjunction with the actual Be page. It ended up being way too long for the page, but I couldn’t discard it completely. It’s the story of how I became a feminist.

I didn’t grow up in a house that went to church regularly. I didn’t really start to explore Christianity until I was in my early 20s. Having made a slew of bad decisions, I realized if left to my own devices, at least at that point in my life, I wasn’t going to get very far.

Being grafted into the tree of Christendom was healing in so many ways. I don’t want to downplay the powerful role evangelical Christianity had in helping me sort through the incredible challenges I faced as a young single mom. But I remember being surprised as I sat in Bible studies and it slowly dawned on me that Christians—at least all the ones I knew—believed that somehow women were a little less than men.

They didn’t call it that. And it varied in degrees depending on the particular person, but I just . . . had no idea. I thought we burned our bras back in the 70s. Wasn’t equality a known thing?

But the truth was that at that time, I felt I needed Jesus and my Christian friends more than I needed to be the spiritual head of the household. Occasionally I argued, half-heartedly, with a couple of male pastor friends of mine. But mostly I just went with it. And it worked. For a while.

I majored in sociology. Basically that means I’m not really qualified to do anything but blog and make the occasional smart-sounding argument. As a part of the program, we were required to take a sociology of gender class. I didn’t want to. I didn’t identify with the word “feminist.” As a Christian, I had long ago left behind any notion that equality was a known thing. I knew my place. I knew the linguistic acrobatics I had to achieve to submit to the strong feeling that I was being called to be a pastor all the while keeping in mind that my husband ultimately had the final word on my decisions in life. It was a delicate balance, but a tightrope I had learned to walk well. Maybe equality was fine for the non-Christians. But we godly folks needed the hierarchy.

But then that class. Damn. It just blew the roof off my head. It turns out equality for women is not just something we Christians struggle with! It crosses all kinds of cultural, racial, class, and party lines. We’ve been pushed down for a looooong time. And it affects men, too.

I’d made it successfully through three years of secular university with my traditional Christian values firmly intact. I prided myself on being open-minded while remaining faithful to my God. But suddenly I found myself confronted with those same questions I’d had in the beginning. Why can’t I run the show? Or at least co-lead it. Why do our differences make it apparent that there has to be a leader and it has to be the guy?

These questions shaped the way my faith evolved over the next couple of years. Around the same time, I started going to a church with two female pastors. The community was committed to the belief that equality should be a known thing. I didn’t know that you could be a Christian and not believe that the man was the spiritual head of the household! It made me feel unimaginably free.

I realized though that the farther I fell into my new beliefs, the farther I felt from evangelical Christianity. To the point that when I started blogging professionally in 2011, I purposely shied away from all things Christian. I worked tirelessly to live out my faith in way that was grounded yet scandalously nonjudgmental. That’s still my ultimate goal.

But I began to fear judgment myself. Christians can be a condemning lot. I didn’t want to be labeled a heretic. I didn’t want to argue theology. I just wanted to love people as best I could with my words and hope the rest would take care of itself.

And that worked well for a while. But then another class came along to changed the game again. It was my friend Elora’s first e-course, called Story 101. I wanted to learn about the craft of writing. I had no idea that the majority of her readers, and thus the students in her class, were Christian women. I was terrified! I had spent the last two years running from those kinds of online spaces. I wanted to participate in her class but I was afraid these women would not accept me where I was.

I decided I had a choice. I could hide my feminism (and other progressive thoughts and feelings), take what the class had to offer but only minimally engage  OR I could “come out” about my beliefs and see what happened.

Always up for an adventure, I chose the latter. And something remarkable happened.

First, I wasn’t the only one! And second, the women in the class who didn’t agree with me did not judge me the way I feared they would. Some of them were, perhaps, a little wary, but overall everyone was wildly welcoming, accepting wherever each of us were. In that class, we didn’t just write our hearts out, we poured them out, to one another, in all our holy and broken glory. We created deep friendships that are still thriving today. We listened to each other. Really listened. And I realized the true reason I was a feminist.

The resilience of women continues to astound me. We’ve been pushed down for centuries. Told that we didn’t matter, except for what we could do for our men. Told that we should cover up, unless one of those men would prefer we undressed. Told that we couldn’t vote, and, even after they let us, that our political candidates would be mostly men. Told that we should judge other women when they step out of the lines our cultures have created to box us in.

But in that group, we refused. We let go of judgement and allowed each other to creatively express who we were and where we were. And it was more than enough.

So many things have come from that first class. Elora ultimately created The Storytellers. I curated and published Wild Goslings, and many in that group contributed. Two weeks after Story 101 began, prompted by a coaching call with Elora, I launched my first e-course—a journey through Lent that would ultimately become Be, my favorite and flagship class.

THAT CLASS. Thanks to Story 101, I went from running away from all things Christian online to teaching an online class for mostly Christians through the Christian season of Lent!

This is the part where I say God and feminism work in mysterious ways. And thank God for teachers and the classes, online and off, that leave you markedly different from who you were on the first day of school. Can I get an amen?

merawHi! I’m Brandy. I run this joint, and I’m so glad you’re here! I write in this space regularly, sharing resources, love, and challenges for dreamers and creative healers. I’m aiming to hit that sweet spot between doing work you love, making the world a better place, and taking care of yourself in the process.

If this post touched you and you find yourself wanting a safe space to explore vulnerability and authenticity, please check out Be 2015. We have seven amazing teachers lined up to co-teach with me. It’s going to be an incredible journey.

And if you really dig my style and my message, then you might want to consider signing up for my newsletter, Voice Lessons. Nearly every week, I write a love letter to all the people on that list, sharing stuff I don’t share with the world. I’ve even been known to give away entire e-courses for free.

All the love, friend. Thank you for stopping by! I hope this post filled your day with a little extra awesome. Take good care.

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