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15 Days of Vulnerable: Double-D Dreamer

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“I mean, you are the most embodied person I know. You feel all your feelings on the outside.”

She smiled at me and I wondered at her words. Me? Embodied.

Nope.

Feelings, yes. I’ve got those in spades. But I’ve never considered myself an embodied individual. I’m not even 100% clear what that means.

I’ve been blogging for the past seven years (holy crap, has it been that long?) and just last week I figured out what it is I write about.

Not for lack of trying. When I focused my attention on blogging more professionally in the spring of 2011, my writing mentor, Kelly Diels, advised me to, more or less, pick my lanes. On her blog, Cleavage, she wrote about (in no particular order): Sex, Money, and Meaning. She suggested we pick three to seven topics we could ramble on about for hours every day.

“Also,” She asked, “What is your big, blue-sky dream?”

(She’s good. Three years later, still my favorite question in all the land.)

My answer at the time? To participate in the restoration of shalom on earth. And to help people find their own unique purpose so that they can participate, too.

“So, you help people find the meaning of their life?” She probed.

Nope! I don’t do that. That’s too big. It’s too much. Maybe I don’t know what I do. Because that’s too high a calling and I am not up for the challenge.

I ran back in my hole. I pondered. I mulled. I tried to articulate what I do—what I’m about—with smaller nouns and verbs.

Eventually I landed in a place that felt comfortable enough. On this blog right now, when I write a post, I’ll generally file it into one of three categories: Innovation, Feminism, and Shalom. Those, I decided, are my lanes.

But then I went to the Story Sessions Retreat last month and all my cars crashed into one another.

I attended Bianca’s Breakout Session, Work The Dream. She talked about the hierarchy. We start with Ideas. We move down to Dreams. From there we go to Goals. And finally, in the end, we shift into Tasks and Actions. It made a lot of sense. But the more I thought about it, my work didn’t add up like that. I’m full of ideas. I have goals out the wazoo. And I make them happen with tasks and actions.

But where’s my ruddy dream?

I felt the panic rising from my stomach, past my heart, and up to my throat.

I can’t not have a dream! I help other people find their dreams for a living! What on earth is going on? What am I doing? What have I done?

Seeing the fear in my face, Elora grabbed my journal and scribbled these words,

Your Dream >> Helping others create their own destiny. (???)

It helped. But I wanted something more. Didn’t I need to know my destiny before I could help others with theirs?

All throughout the weekend, I’d been getting texts thanking me for the Shalom Session I led at the retreat. Though I was touched and grateful, I began to understand now why I’d had a hard time accepting the praise. But also, thanks to a few wise story sisters, I also understood that my own unknowing didn’t disqualify the good work I’d done.

I walked away from that session flustered, but determined. Back at home, the fun began.

Honey (sometimes you have to call yourself honey), what’s your big blue-sky dream?

In my notebook, I wrote down these words:

My creative dream is to bring healing to people through my writing, preaching, and, ultimately, counseling. I want to write an epic series full of myth and hope and redemption. I want to preach good news that is actually good news. I want to get my MSW and continually add tools to my coaching—and eventually counseling—toolbox so that I can meet people whenever they are. And help them find the next right step for them.

In 2007, I felt the distinct call to become a pastor. And although it’s nothing like I thought it would be, that’s still the closest explanation I can find for what it is I do.

Destiny intermingled with Shalom. Too big or bust. Maybe I’m just a Double-D Dreamer. Maybe I can handle overwhelmingly huge.

It’s so easy to get waylaid. To get caught in busywork that seems hella important at the time only to realize that it actually has nothing to do with where you’re going. I wrote this piece last July. But I swear I have to sit down every couple of months and remind myself what I’m doing here. Because I’ll forget! It seems ridiculous that I could forget what my dream is! But I do. And so instead of beating myself up for not remembering. I will just gently remind myself: This is why you’re here, Brandy. Go forth and do that thing you do.

It’s time I embodied those principles so dear to me.

That’s the dream.

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 Nine 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: Body of Work

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Last October, I applied for my dream job, and I didn’t get it. The following month, I discovered that Tara Mohr was hiring. It also felt like a dream job, because I look up to her so much. I submitted the piece below as my Body of Work in lieu of a résumé. And again, I didn’t get the job. In December, I applied for another dreamy job, a gig waiting tables at restaurant/coffee shop/theatre that serves organic food, a host of vegan options, and encourages conversations that uplift racial and cultural connections. And I got it! It’s a side hustle, writing and teaching are still my main gigs, but it’s wonderful to be in that atmosphere and I know that I wasn’t meant to get the other two jobs, because if I had, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

In the spirit of Vulnerability, I wanted to share this application with you. It sucks that I didn’t get the job, I would have loved to work and learn alongside Tara. But writing this all out was extremely helpful in its own right because I began to make out the threads of my professional life. How I got from 7th grade drama class to this computer, typing my heart out daily.

And it fits so well next to Jill’s guest post. Teachers really do make all the difference.

Can you find the threads in your own life? You don’t necessarily have to type it all out in an overly long story. But maybe spend some time walking through the pages of your own book today, and see what you notice that you didn’t before.

I wanted to be an actress. It started in middle school when we first got to pick electives. I was the only serious actor in the class. The only one who spent her evenings building presentations to convince her parents to move to Hollywood. All the rest of those fools were just trying to get out of Home Ec.

In eighth grade I auditioned for our high school’s prestigious drama program. Our middle school acting teacher advised us to wear something memorable to the audition so we wouldn’t be lost in the crowd.

I chose a lime green velvet t-shirt and put a sticker on my face (just in case). Knees shaking, I stood up on that high school stage and monologued a melodramatic poem I’d worked to memorize for two weeks.  I walked away from that audition exhilarated—and with one of the spots in the freshman class.

Last week, I saw that Tara Mohr was hiring. I got that big and tingly feeling I get when the stars of gifts and desire align and I knew I had to apply.

I took a long walk with Sebastian the Wonderdog because he’s good at brainstorming. I thought about my “professional background.” How did the pieces fit together? For a long time, I couldn’t find the thread. The twists and turns of my life seemed random and though sometimes traumatic, largely meaningless.

High school drama was a Serious Thing. We won awards for one-act plays that my teacher, Ms. Sweet, wrote herself. Every spring, we’d put together a musical that the whole community would clamor to attend. There was forensics, too. Not the scientific nonsense, the good kind. Prose and Poetry. Duos and Humor. We’d travel all over Virginia to compete at events. We’d perform in small classrooms with strict rules about how far you could move one foot and how often you were supposed to look at your script book. And then we’d hold our breath in auditoriums and wait to see how amazing we did. Judges in each classroom would critique our work and rank each person competing. I still have those notes.

Alongside drama, I took a creative writing class in tenth grade because the teacher who taught it, Ms. V, was my favorite. She’d assign us stories and poems to write and then she’d have us stand up in front of our classmates and read our work. I still remember the satisfaction I felt reading the first poem I ever wrote. It was a different feeling from drama class, where I read someone else’s words. This was almost magical. When my peers clapped boisterously at the end, it was more sincere than the applause I’d received in the other classroom across the hall. They liked my words!

In 12th grade, my family had to move to a different state and things got hazy. I still signed up for the drama class in my new school. Our class put on Antigone, and I scored the lead role. But it was different, and in my mind, all wrong. Ms. Sweet had taught me a great deal about drama snobbery. And I convinced myself that I only won the lead because there was no one else to do it.

Still, in my room at night, as I practiced my Academy Award acceptance speech, I thanked both Ms. Sweet and my new teacher, Mr. Yost. Wildly talented dramatics, they were.

But I started to lose my ambition. I barely graduated high school. I didn’t apply to college. I never stopped dreaming. Just, for a while, the partying made it impossible to act. For several years after graduation, I looked back on those early high school years with longing—my glory days.

There will always be an ache in my heart when I think about the years that came after high school. Sometimes it’s hard not to postulate how far I’d be if I hadn’t lost them. But the truth is, it was that profound loss which inspired me to get back to my high school dreams.

I turned 23 the year I decided I wanted to love my life. To heal the broken pieces of my heart as I sobered up, I started writing again. I rewrote half of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament—turning it into a rap. I wrote poems about abuse and addiction and recovery. About mistakes and second chances. About dreams.

In 2005, I found myself on a stage in front of over 5000 people. I shared my story of loss and redemption and I sang (although I’m not a singer) and performed a rap I wrote based on Ephesians 4 and the importance of following our gifts and passions. Anthony Hamilton’s manager approached me afterward and asked if I would consider recording the song in a studio.

In 2006, I moved to Maryland and enrolled in a community college. Fully prepared to live with the kind of engagement I once had, I joined the newspaper and eventually became the Editor-in-Chief. I started taking drama classes again. I performed spoken word at events all over both campuses. And I founded an anti-genocide coalition to raise awareness for what was going on at that time in Darfur.

Graduating with honors in 2008, I went onto the University of Maryland to finish my degree. At UMD, I took classes on sociology of gender, sociology of race, sociology of the south. I attended an event to end poverty and met a freegan. I volunteered with The Polaris Project and Not For Sale. I won a scholarship for Alternative Spring Break and flew to San Francisco to study the California justice system.

Sociology changed me—it gave the last missing link to my message of hope, dreams, and restoration. But toward the end of my time as a college student, things started to unravel. I’d married in 2008. My husband lost his job in 2009. I was set to graduate in 2010, but it was all I could do to keep going. Both of us struggled with depression.

One day I was driving home from school, asking God what I was supposed to do with a freaking sociology degree. The answer knocked the wind out of me. I had to cling to the steering wheel to keep from swerving.

God was calling me to be a pastor.

Things should have been easy at that point. I should have gotten my bachelors and went on to complete a Masters of Divinity. That’s how it was supposed to go down. But my theology had started to morph. I wasn’t sure about so much of what the majority of the church held as truth. I made it through one semester at seminary before I decided I needed a break.

It was supposed to be a year. I just needed some time to think. And then I found I was pregnant—one week before I was supposed to leave to volunteer with survivors of human trafficking in India. I went anyway, but Kolkata is a strong smelling place and brutal on a pregnant nose. I felt sick with privilege. All the money I’d raised to support me for two weeks—and then I left early because hormones and emotions and nausea.

I brought home bed bugs and disillusionment. I’d worked so hard and I’d been so sure. But now what? Where were the fruits of my passion and activism? I dreamed about that as I slept the rest of the first trimester off.

I woke up around 14 weeks feeling a little more sunny. Occasionally, I updated blog with the very àpropos subtitle, “My inconsistent journey to be consistent.” I had saved a link I thought was instructions on how to get my daughter into Girl Scouts in our area because it was called Scoutie Girl, but when I clicked it, it was an online magazine on all things crafty. At that time it was run by Tara Gentile, and the first thing I noticed when I clicked over that she was teaching an online class called The Art of Action and it was getting ready to start.

I’d never taken an e-course—I’d never even heard of one—but something inside whispered to pay attention. So I did.

There are a handful of classes in my life that changed my course of direction. Ms. V’s Creative Writing. Lester Andrist’s Sociology of Gender, and Tara Gentile’s Art of Action.

It wasn’t about what I learned. The class went in-depth on the “how” part of running an online business. I needed that, for sure. It was more about the realization of all that was possible with this new online world. That I could use my blog to pursue my dreams.

Before that, I’d called it PAWS (Poetry, Acting, Writing, and Speaking). I didn’t have an overarching game-plan. Each was its own thing.

I had headshots taken and sent them out to over 50 producers in 2007—eventually scoring myself a gig as extra in the movie Step Up 2.

I wrote and performed spoken word at contests and open mics in the DC area.

I wrote on my blog, of course.

I spoke at churches and Celebrate Recovery, sharing my story.

Tara showed me I could combine them—and that together they could become the calling I’d felt so long ago. I could become a digital pastor.

That was the beginning of all this.

Within a couple of months, I had written and self published two free e-books.

In 2012, I spoke at my first big conference—Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity.

I started a life coaching practice I called the Shalom Sessions.

In 2013, I co-wrote and curated a full length book and published on Amazon.

That same year, I taught my first e-course, which became my favorite. And since then, I’ve taught seven others—six of them all containing brand new content.

I’ve taught workshops at retreats in Austin on following your dreams, breaking through resistance, and self-kindness. I’ve grown my readership to over 2000 individuals.

I’ve been featured on publications such as Yes and Yes, Kind Over Matter, Toronto Sun News Network, Thought Catalog, Do What You Love For Life, and of course, Scoutie Girl.

I found I had a knack for copywriting and so I started a small business writing bios for creative entrepreneurs. Today, if you Google “hire a bio writer”, I’m on the first page.

I’ve experimented with a few projects where I learned a lot even thought they didn’t succeed in the traditional sense. I started my own online magazine that existed to share cheeky good news. I learned to write humor and from a more journalistic point of view.

I started my own home and online church. I called it Church in the Wild and we broke bread each Sunday and talked about muddy business of love and doubt via Google Hangouts.

My huge, wildfire dream is to someday reach Tara Mohr status. I want to be known for helping people clear the blocks that keep them from following their dreams.

Every year I get a little bit closer to that elusive calling I still feel. Digital pastor is not necessarily a title that fits perfectly anymore. But I know there’s something there. It has to do with dreams and the mystery of God and the restoration of shalom. It’s about calling. Yours and mine. And every seemingly random twist and turn has, when I look back, had some sparkly serendipitous quality to it.

It’s leading me home, but we’re taking the scenic route. And it is breathtaking.

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 Eight 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 Day of Vulnerable: Thank You

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So excited to share this guest post with you today! Jill words are incredibly stirring.

Thank You
By Jill Sampson

You might remember me. We spent three years together in the late eighties. I had poodle hair, that was always soft, clean and hairspray free.

I am writing to say thank you for those years. Thank you for having high expectations and believing I could achieve them. Thank you for treating me like an equal. Thank you for being a friend.

Because of you, it never even occurred to me that girls can’t do math and that I couldn’t hang with the boys.

The first year, it was geometry. The first semester, we participated in a remote learning class. It was very cutting edge with satellite tv, but I still remember you did most of the work, looking at homework and answering questions. I don’t remember us dialing in on the phone too often. Still, for the 80’s it was pretty cool. That first test, I did in about 5 minutes. You asked me if I’d done the proof at the back. When you handed it back with a perfect score, you said when I was as good as you, I could do it in ink. I took that as the challenge you meant it to be.

I don’t know if you figured it out, but I boldly manipulated the system to stay in your class for the next 5 semesters. I picked other classes strategically so that I could only be assigned statistics during the hour you taught it. When it came time for calculus I told the counselor I had to have it first hour, and got her to change it, claiming the medicine I took precluded me doing calculus in the afternoon.

You are the only teacher I had that never actually picked up our homework and graded it. I loved the way you walked around the room, checked our work and chatted personally with people about it. It was much more personal than red ink handed back in alphabetical order. In retrospect, I know you probably developed that habit because you had a family and second job and couldn’t cram in all that red ink, but I hope you didn’t give it up in the later years. You had this funny habit of ruffling my hair when you looked at my homework. Since my father didn’t live with us, I can honestly say that you were the only male in my life at that time that had any personal contact with me that didn’t have ulterior motives. Thank you.

I was in your geometry class first hour and wasn’t always exactly punctual. One morning, I bopped in last and the class was completely silent with two empty chairs. One of my classmates was holding up an obituary for the kid who normally sat behind me. He had killed himself with his father’s gun. I slid into my chair not quite knowing what to do. That was in the days before grief counselors were at every school. After a brief discussion, we started class. For me, it was the first of many people who were there one day and gone the next. I wonder now how it affected you.

Over the years we became friends of sorts, I guess. As much as people who see each other once a day in a classroom can. All those weeks for three years I was dizzy/nauseous with migraines you were very patient. I remember one whole winter that I wasn’t dizzy you asked me every day if I was pregnant. I admit your theory made sense, but there was no chance – I knew even then, I didn’t want children. You would be disappointed to know that is one of the things that eventually did prevent the guy who sat next to me and I from getting married – that and we really only ever were good friends. We did sort of experiment in college with the idea. I suppose we could have made a life together, but our hearts weren’t in it. Our parents weren’t keen on it. And he wanted kids.

I remember the day like it was yesterday we were walking down the empty hall way. Me in front, pretending I wasn’t so late the hall had already cleared. You walking behind me, allowing me that pretense, when suddenly the lenses fell out of your glasses and shattered the silence. I had no idea you wore both contacts and glasses to see – until you told me you couldn’t even see me, much less read!

I was always hungry at 10 am – and happened to be in your class at that time, my junior year. I had gotten in the habit of hitting a vending machine or finding someone with candy for sale and eating in your class. You were clearly annoyed, but could see I was seriously hungry. You pointed out that I should be eating healthier food if I was going to do it every day, otherwise, I’d start picking up weight. So for weeks, I packed in carrots or an apple. And when I didn’t you threatened to get the wide load sign for my butt. It was good advice. I still get hungry at 10 am and I think of you when I grab an unhealthy alternative.

When it came time to fill out college applications recommendations, you must have done at least three for me. One of them was a ranking form where you had to rate my stability. You joked with me about being unstable, I guess because of the dizzy/migraine problem, but I mistook you to mean my mental health. I thought for sure you’d discovered my crazy home life or my family’s mental illness. You assured me you were only joking and ranked me high. And then later that year when I didn’t go to the awards ceremony because I was working – you were the first to greet me with my full name in the morning and break the news I had picked the wrong night to skip — the Purdue representative had come unannounced to award me a scholarship.

I want you to know that I went to Purdue and did well enough. I work for a tech company. I manage people. I got an MBA. I think back often now to those high school days and how you treated me like it was okay for me to do well at math. And in life. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. Thank you.

Jill Sampson is married and works for Genscape, Inc in Louisville, KY. She has a BS from Purdue in Biochemistry and an MBA from University of Louisville. She actively volunteers in the community at Actors Theater and First Unitarian. She golfs, belongs to a story group and teaches art journaling in her spare time.

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 Seven 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: The New Be Teachers!

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Maybe I’m stretching it, including this. There are a million reasons this post doesn’t fit into #15DaysofVulnerable, buut also probably a million reasons it does. So I’m just going to go with it. Because it’s my series and I’ll blog if I want to.

I knew it would be vulnerable for the people applying. And, I must admit, I hated it for them. Even though vulnerability is the name of the game. And I know it’s good for people. It’s still hard. What I didn’t plan on was it being vulnerable on my end! The veteran teachers and I picked and chose, to the best of our ability, but then I had to write the emails telling each beautiful person whether or not she made the cut. GAH. I know people always say it was close, but for reals it was!  What they don’t tell you is how exactly to write a “Sorry, you didn’t make it” email. Who teaches those things? I just had to make shit up. With all the love. Because I really do care about these women. So, yeah. Vulnerable. For all of us, I’m sure.

Ohh, but the fun part! We have two new teachers and I am so excited to share them with you!

Taking over the Give week, we have the amazing life coach, Zohary R.

Zohary is a peacemaker, an encourager, and a work in progress. She is fiercely authentic. She loves geeking out about personality tests, cold cans of Coke, and her beautiful family—one amazing husband and four wild and loving kids. She’s a credentialed school counselor in California and a life coach, certified by Light University and trained in Dr. Brené Brown’s Daring Way Methodology. She’s passionate about giving and receiving grace, finding hope in hard situations, shining in all the areas, encouraging other to shine, too, and mint chocolate anything. Her name is made up from the names of four loved ones. All together, her name means life + beloved friend + bright fame + famous giant. You can find her at ZoharyRoss.com.

And for Make week, we get the shining light that is Mariah J.

Mariah is a Connoisseur of Souls and lives for the moment someone realizes just how beautiful, whole, and powerful they inherently are. As a fledgling wordsmith, she is chronic mixer of metaphors, abuser of ellipsis’, and imbiber of Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast Tea. She explores at GoodVineyardkeeping.com where the only dirt she digs into is the dust of ancient texts. She still gets giddy every time Living Water springs out of it. Her passion is to see it nurture the seeds Divinely planted within Souls, so that every Personality’s gifts can ripen to meet a waiting world’s need. These are her own seeds, just beginning to sprout.

I have had the immense pleasure to work with both of these ladies in different capacities over the past couple of years and I am wildly inspired by both of them. I CANNOT WAIT for the Be students to see the curriculum they cooked up. Seriously, amazeballs.

You can find out more about Mariah and Zohary and sign up for the Be class here (to get their classes plus Jamie’s + Elora’s + Nicole’s + Bianca’s + Jenipher’s + Mine! Yes! I’m teaching the week AFTER Easter this year)! Tonight is the last night to sign up for the Early Bird special!

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 Six 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: 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.

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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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